Dispatchers Given Protocol For Sinking Cars

Thursday, June 11th 2009, 9:41 pm
By: News On 6

By Lori Fullbright, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- When a woman died in her car during a flash flood last month near Pryor, many people were surprised to learn there is no standard procedure for EMS dispatchers when it comes to sinking cars.  However, the national academy of emergency medical dispatchers has created a sinking car protocol.

Chad Moser has been handling emergency calls for EMSA for nearly 17 years and in all that time, he's never had a person call from a sinking car.

"Most of ours are stalled vehicles, people driving over a roadway, stalls out, but haven't had a washed away vehicle," said EMSA's Chad Moser.

Still, he knows it happens and he could one day be on the other end of a call like the one from Mayes County.

05/03/2009  Related Story:  Woman Drowns In Pryor Flood Waters

When it happens, he'll be ready with the sinking car protocol which gives him step by step directions, depending on how high the water is and how fast it's rising.

If the car is floating, the instruction is to get the windows down and get out as fast as possible.

If the car is underwater and the caller can't open a window or break it out, they must wait for the car to fill up, take a deep breath and once the pressure is equalized, they can open a door and go, swimming in the direction of the bubbles.

"It is comforting to know that should the situation arise, I can go to that instead of freelance and come up with it on our own," said EMSA's Chad Moser.

Moser says getting the call fast and giving instructions quickly is critical, especially knowing that once a cell phone becomes waterlogged, it stops working.   His hope is he never has to use the new guidelines.

"It's like having insurance. You hope you never need it, but if you do, it's good to know it's there," said EMSA's Chad Moser.

There are only three nationally accredited EMS communication centers in the state.   They are in Tulsa, Oklahoma City and Muskogee.

Many safety experts recommend you carry something sharp in your car that could be used to break a window under water.