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What to do if you’re trapped in floodwater

HOUSTON – It’s terrifying enough, being thrust suddenly into deep, floodwater. Even if you’re a strong swimmer, the shock of the water hitting your face can cause you to panic. But what if you don’t even know how to swim?

Channel 2 Investigates decided to team up with Jim Napolitano, a former U.S. Secret Service Agent, who served on President George Bush’s water rescue detail.

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“Rushing water is an indiscriminate killer. It will take whatever it wants with it, it will take your life if it can,” says Napolitano.

Napolitano says if you are trapped in rising floodwater, you have make your way to shore somehow, and you can use the rushing water to help you do that.

These are Napolitano’s four steps to escaping floodwater alive:

1) Don’t take your shoes off, they are important protection.

“We don’t want to take our shoes off, we probably can’t get them off anyway, and by trying to remove them, we are probably going to drown or at least slip and fall and may become trapped by rocks and debris beneath our feet,” Napolitano says.

2) Pick your legs up and thrust them out in front of you and lay back on the water.

“You want to stick your legs straight out, and that will allow you to float on the water. Let the current of the water carry you,” says Napolitano.

3) Use your feet to steer. Wherever you point your feet, you will travel. So point your feet toward the shore, or dry land.

4) When you reach shore, pull yourself up and simply roll your body up the embankment.

“You won’t be able to climb out of the water like you climb out of a pool, so do not try, just roll yourself like a seal would up onto dry land,” Napolitano says.

But what if you are caught inside your vehicle when the floodwater arrives?

Napolitano has another four steps to escaping from a car trapped in deep floodwater.

1) Get your seat belt off.

“The first thing is to push that button on your seat belt and get the belt off of you and everyone else in the car; believe it or not a lot of people forget to do that,” Napolitano says.

2) Open your window.

If the electrical system is out, you have to break that window out by using a window break tool, available in many hardware stores and even some liquor package stores. The tool costs just $10 and can be kept on your key chain.

3) Get out! Climb out the window.

“It’s not as easy as it sounds, but you have to get out that window, the doors will not open with all of that water surrounding the car,” Napolitano says.

4) Lean back and let yourself fall into the water.

“If the water is high enough, and only if the water is high enough, you can simply lean back and fall into the water and try to float on the surface,” Napolitano says.