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Oklahoma's EMSA Adopts Sinking Car Protocol

OKLAHOMA CITY --

Oklahoma's Emergency Medical Services Authority has adopted a protocol for how to respond to drivers whose cars get trapped in flood waters.

The decision follows the death of Kim Kendrick last month who died in a sinking car. EMSA said they couldn't help the Pryor woman because they didn't have a protocol in place to give her advice.

Kendrick stayed on the phone with dispatchers for 10 minutes but they never told her how to get out of the car because dispatchers didn't have a formal list of approved advice.

Emergency crews said if drivers get trapped in a car with water rushing in, they have only a matter of minutes to get out. Under the new protocol, drivers will be told to first try to roll the windows down. If that doesn't work, they should try to break the glass.

They said if water is rushing in, callers may have to wait until water is almost above their heads to equalize the pressure and then try to open the car door. They also said to call 911 immediately because too much water in the car will make most cell phones useless.

Dispatchers can now walk the caller through the steps and try to keep them calm.

"The best thing we could tell them before we got the protocol was to, 'Do what you can to get yourself out of the car,' unless they had some other knowledge to try and rely on," said Eric Callender of EMSA.

Callender said the National Academy of Emergency Dispatch released the new protocol in 2008, but EMSA needed more time to make sure the tips actually worked.

EMSA reminds people not to go past barricades or drive in high water.

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