Deployment of vehicle airbags during flood conditions
Information from Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service - UK:
Fire crews recently attended a car stuck in floodwater with two elderly occupants inside. On arrival the wipers appeared to be on intermittent indicating that the ignition was probably still on. The crews were instructed to isolate the ignition which they did. The elderly female occupant was ill and on her way to being admitted to hospital, therefore an ambulance was requested. Approximately one minute later, whilst the crew were waiting for a stretcher to safely evacuate the lady, there were two loud almost simultaneous bangs and both side curtain, drivers and passenger seat airbags deployed. We can only assume this occurred due to a short circuit in the wiring system caused by water ingress. Crews made immediate efforts to isolate the electrical system by disconnecting the battery. We believe the car had been in the water for no more than five minutes before the airbags deployed. Fortunately no personnel were affected or injured and the incident was recorded as a near miss. The car involved was a Volvo C3 with a 09 plate. The water depth was approximately 2.5 – 3 foot deep.
The AA have also reported that these types of incident have occurred, particularly with VW and Audi vehicles Some vehicles fitted with electronic handbrakes are activating whilst the vehicle is being driven through flood water, due to the ingress of water shorting out the control modules leaving the car stuck in water.
Emergency crews need to be mindful of these risks when attending vehicles in flood water and ensure wherever possible they keep minimum personnel within a risk area, and a safe distance from any potential hazard.
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