SANTA ROSA (KPIX 5) – This summer, four children drowned in two separate accidents in Sonoma County when their cars ended up submerged in water.
First responders felt the public could use an education campaign and on Monday, they gave a little push to get it started.
A car was dunked into Lake Ralphine in Santa Rosa, as members of the public looked on, to give people a real demonstration of how much time they may have to get out. They did it a number of times to show people that it’s important not to panic.
“What you saw today, the car submerged in about a minute. But that’s because we ran it into the water multiple times, so it already had a bunch of water in it,” Bill Bullard of the Sonoma County Sheriff’s volunteer dive team told KPIX 5. “So, in realistic terms, the newer cars, you’d have even more time.”
Rescuers say don’t try to open the door, it’s under too much pressure. Instead, lower a window immediately and start working to get kids free of their seatbelts. And release the older kids first so they can get out while you help those who are younger.
“So, the steps are: vehicle goes into the water. Get your windows down, get yourself unbuckled, get your children unbuckled, oldest to youngest,” said Jonathan Sloat of the California Highway Patrol.
And in case the window won’t lower, firefighters showed how easy it can be punched out if you have a glass puncture tool handy.
If the purpose of the demonstration was to get the public’s attention, it worked for Brielle Houghton.
“Seeing it in person and imagining those dummies being my kids was kind of…it hit you in the gut, like a punch,” Houghton said.
Rescuers say having a plan in mind is the surest way to overcome panic if you suddenly find yourself in too deep.