David Durand, a paramedic for American Medical Response, says the private ambulance service responds to two or three calls concerning submerged vehicles throughout the county each month.
However, only one of them generally involves a person trapped in a car, he said.
A majority of the vehicles found underwater had been stolen and then abandoned, Durand said.
The Woodbridge Rural Fire Protection District gets many rescue calls in the Delta, said Woodbridge Fire Operations Chief Ken Harris.
Woodbridge also gets quite a few calls for cars stuck in the Woodbridge Irrigation District canals, but the canals in the Lodi area aren't nearly as deep as the Delta-Mendota Canal in Westley that took seven lives on Tuesday afternoon, Harris said,
The Delta-Mendota Canal in western Stanislaus County is 25 to 32 feet deep, whereas the Woodbridge canal system is only 6 feet deep.
That does not mean the Woodbridge irrigation canals are not dangerous, Harris said. He would know, not just from his firefighting experience, but because there is a canal behind his house.
Your car is underwater - what do you do?You accidentally drive into the Woodbridge Irrigation District canal, the Mokelumne River or a waterway in the Delta. Your car is completely submerged, and you're in it. What should you do?
Here are some ideas:
- Don't panic, even though it's a natural thing to do because the
water's murky and it's dark.
- You have 30 to 45 seconds to get out of your car, since that's
how long most calm, relaxed people can hold their breath. While the
car is sinking, take a deep breath, open your window and crawl out.
If you have electrical windows, you will only be able to open the
windows for a short period of time because they will short
- If you're unable to open the window, open the door only after
the car fills with water. Preferably, have a window-breaking tool
in the car.
Sources: Ken Harris, fire operations chief, Woodbridge Fire; Survival Systems USA; ehow.com
"They are dangerous because there's current in them," Harris said. "It's all gravity-fed water. I can take a plastic bottle, throw it in the canal and it will go around the corner to Woodbridge Road. Westley has a lot more current."
Woodbridge Irrigation District has about 120 miles of canals in Woodbridge, Thornton, Lodi and rural areas south and west of Lodi.
Victims are not likely to survive for more than an hour after being submerged into water, Harris said.
"In the Delta, if he's been in the water for an hour, we'll try to rescue him," Harris said. "Once a car has been in water for an hour, it's a (body) recovery."
Rescue workers have a greater chance of reviving someone during colder weather, Harris said. In the summer, when the water's warmer, the body decomposes faster and brain damage sets in, he added.
To avoid a potential drowning, pay attention while driving, slow down, don't use your cell phone or play with your radio, said Durand, the AMR paramedic.
Durand also advises people to know exactly where you are so you can give a specific location to authorities in case of an emergency. If you are on a levee in the Delta, be sure to know which road you are driving on so firefighters and ambulances can get their more quickly, Durand said.
The Stockton Fire Department has a water rescue team that helps other fire departments in the county. Stockton averages 30 to 35 water incident responses a year, according to its Web site, though not all of them are about submerged individuals.
Stockton's water rescue team is staffed 24 hours a day with a four-person crew.