The steps you need to take before your car gets swept away in a wash

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Every monsoon, Tucson Fire Department gets dozens of calls from drivers stranded in flooded washes, and while TFD hopes you'll turn around, having an emergency plan if you get trapped is key to your survival.  

"Within seconds, minutes, it's going to become deadly," said Captain Andy Skaggs of TFD about flooding in washes and streets in Tucson. 

Another danger you won't see as you try to drive through a flooded street: hidden debris in the water. Captain Skaggs says the most common finds include: "trees, old logs, a lot of times you may see shopping carts in there."

So, TFD has a simple message that will save your car and potentially your life, "Take the 5 minutes, take the 10 minutes to detour," said Skaggs. "Go around. It's not worth your life."

Last year, TFD was called to 27 swift water rescues and got 93 calls from drivers stranded in their cars. Captain Skaggs says it's because people forget that less than 6 inches of water can pick up your car.

So what do you do if you've driven into a wash and feel your car stalling out in moving water?

  • Stay calm, call 911.
  • Use a landmark to see whether or not the water level is rising.
  • If the water level is going up, quickly roll down your windows, and climb to higher ground (the top of your car).
  • If the water is not rising, stay in your car.
  • If you're on the top of your vehicle, stay seated. It's easier to lose your balance and fall into debris filled water standing up.
  • Wait for help to arrive. Do not get into the water.

TFD has many ways to get you to safety. Usually they will extend their ladder and help you climb off of your car. They can also hoist you using the rescue ring. It suspends you above the water by tightening a ring around your upper torso.

These are the tools firefighters will use in the worst case scenario, but they're hoping you'll make the choice to turn around.

"It'll change your life forever," Captain Skaggs said. "It'll change everyone around your life forever. Go around."



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