When severe weather strikes, and flooding occurs, there is important information fleets need to know about flooded vehicles.  Though weather patterns are often unpredictable, when it comes to preventing and dealing with vehicle damage from floods, there are guidelines that you can incorporate into your emergency plan to help minimize risks to drivers, and costs to your fleet.


What Fleets Need To Know About Flooded Vehicles

When flooding occurs, always follow the advice of the National Weather Service. Each year, more deaths occur due to flooding than any other thunderstorm related hazard – and half of those deaths happen when a vehicle is driven into flood water, according to the Center for Disease Control. The National Weather Service advises “Turn Around and Don’t Drown,” as only 12 inches of flowing water can carry away a vehicle.

  • Out of all weather damage types, flood damage is the most likely to plague a vehicle long term. Flood damage which will impact resale value of a vehicle, so weigh any flood repair for long term cost impact. Why put money into a devalued asset that you may not recoup? Minor flood damage may make sense to repair in certain cases, but interior, electrical/electronic system damage have lasting effects.
  • Typically, flood water leaves a “water line” behind after it recedes. Debris or contamination in the water will deposit particles on the surface, leaving a visible line showing water depth.
  • Water can infiltrate all mechanical systems and render a vehicle inoperable. If a vehicle has been partially submerged in water 12 inches or deeper, consider having the vehicle towed to examine the mechanical condition before attempting to start the engine.
  • If water entered the cabin, do not attempt to start the vehicle as its electronic components have likely been compromised. In most vehicles, the airbag and restraint control module are mounted to the floor beneath the carpet. Moisture can wick into fabric and affect areas even above the water line.
  • If the vehicle stalled out while driving through standing water, don’t try to restart. Engine damage is extremely likely if water was ingested.
  • It’s helpful to know the source of the water – fresh, brackish or salt water – and the duration of time the vehicle spent submerged. Brackish and salt water are the most damaging as they cause corrosion when in contact with electronics. If the vehicles electrical system has been compromised by anything other than fresh water, repair is typically not an option.


How to Handle Flooded Hybrid and Electric Vehicles

If there is any chance that your hybrid or electric vehicle was flooded  DO NOT START it and DO NOT CHARGE it.  Also, they should not be touched nor should anyone set foot in standing water within 10 feet of them due to the hazard of high voltage within the vehicle.  The best thing to do is to call your accident management provider and report the damage.

If you are certain your vehicle was not flooded, and you need to use emergency charging cables to charge your electric vehicle, be extremely cautious.  These cables do not offer the same level of protection as a wall box charger does.  Do not use them with bare feet.  Never use them on wet surfaces.  Do not have direct contact with the vehicle, other than when connecting the cable.  And never disconnect the cable while they are in use.


While the best way of minimizing cost and downtime is to establish a plan and policy before flood damage occurs, it is also important to communicate out to drivers what to do, and what not to do, after a disasters happens.  Bookmark CEI’s Hurricane Resource Page for important fleet updates and driver resources related to named storms.

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