Car Dis­as­ters: What To Do If Your Car Catches Fire

The Washington Post Sunday - - AUTOMOTIVE -

Do’s ...

• Stay calm. Sig­nal to get off the road. • If you smell burning wires or smoke, or even if your tem­per­a­ture gauge is red­lined, drive di­rectly onto the shoul­der and turn off the ig­ni­tion. You don’t need to see flames in or­der to make this de­ci­sion. • If you are stuck in a mid­dle lane and can­not pull to the shoul­der, turn on your haz­ard lights, stop the car where it is and turn off the ig­ni­tion. DO NOT con­cern your­self with the rest of the traf­fic — they’ll get out of the way when they see the smoke and flames. • Get out of the car quickly, but be cau­tious. You don’t want to get burned, but you don’t want to be struck by an­other ve­hi­cle while ex­it­ing yours. • If you are stuck in traf­fic, be sure to warn oth­ers around you about the dan­ger. They may need to aban­don their cars too. • Leave ev­ery­thing in the car.

Ev­ery­thing. • Get as far from the burning car as you can. If the car ex­plodes, you don’t want to be any­where close. • Call 911. • If the fire is con­fined to the in­te­rior of the car (i.e. seat up­hol­stery, car­pet), and it has not spread un­con­trol­lably, you could con­sider putting out the fire your­self if you have an ex­tin­guisher in your trunk and know how to use it. But do this only if the fire is small and very man­age­able. Gauge your safety first.

Don’t’s ...

• Do not panic. Panic is at the root of

bad de­ci­sion-mak­ing. • Do not roll the win­dows down and drive faster in hopes that the wind will put the fire out. In­stead, the air and wind can fuel the fire and make it spread faster. • Do not swerve off the road with­out check­ing to make sure you’re clear to do so. A fire is bad. A fire com­bined with a col­li­sion could be much worse. • Do not scram­ble for your valu­ables. The only thing that is im­por­tant at this mo­ment is your safety. A fire can en­gulf the car in a mat­ter of sec­onds, es­pe­cially if there is an oil or fuel leak. • If smoke and flames are com­ing out from un­der the hood, do not open it. A sud­den in­flux of air to the en­gine com­part­ment can cre­ate a fire­ball ef­fect that can en­gulf the ve­hi­cle (and any­one around it) al­most in­stantly. • Do not as­sume the fire is out just

be­cause you can’t see it any­more. • Do not try to ex­tin­guish the fire with nearby wa­ter (from a hose, pond, etc.). This is highly in­ef­fec­tive and un­safe. • Do not linger around the car. Get away, and keep oth­ers away. Wait for emer­gency per­son­nel.

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