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Hot cars are deadly for children, pets

By | 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs | July 07, 2017

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas -- Being inside a parked vehicle on a hot day where the temperature can reach more than 100 degrees can become a dangerous situation for children and pets left unattended by their parents and owners.

 Awareness of the dangers of leaving children and pets unattended in a hot vehicle and efforts in preventing such instances from occurring are a focus of the Air Force Summer Safety Campaign.

Leaving a child or pet alone in a hot vehicle could lead to heatstroke, injury or death. In the U.S. each year, an average of 37 children die from heat-related deaths after being left in a parked vehicle, according to http://www.KidsAndCars.org, a nonprofit organization that works to improve the safety of children in vehicles.

Since 1998, the Department of Meteorology and Climate Science at San Jose State University reports 716 children left in vehicles in the U.S. have died from heatstroke, which occurs when the body reaches 104 degrees Fahrenheit.

According to webmd.com, a heatstroke is caused by prolonged exposure to high temperatures and can damage or kill internal organs in the body, including the brain.

Staff Sgt. Dominick Fugazzi, 502nd Air Base Wing Safety Office safety technician at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, said an adult or parent should not leave a child unattended in a vehicle even for a short period of time.

“It’s never okay to leave a child in a car, period, even if it’s only for a few minutes and even if the car is left running,” Fugazzi said. “The safety and security of your children should be every parent’s number one priority. Leaving a child in a car unattended creates an extremely dangerous environment for numerous reasons.”

Even cracking the windows does not reduce the temperature inside a vehicle, which can increase over 20 degrees within 10 minutes and to 40 degrees within an hour.

For instance, on a 70-degree day, the temperature inside a vehicle could rise to 110 degrees Fahrenheit in an hour.

Children left alone in a hot vehicle are at risk for getting heatstroke because their bodies heat up quicker than adults, Fugazzi said.

“Young children are extremely vulnerable to suffering heatstroke because their bodies can heat up three to five times faster than an adult,” he said.

Other dangers for children left unattended in a vehicle include car theft that could lead to kidnapping or child abduction, seat belt strangulation, carbon monoxide poisoning if the vehicle is left running and vehicle fires, Fugazzi said

Fugazzi said measures can be taken by adults and parents to prevent heat-related injuries or deaths include:

  • Never leaving a child alone in a vehicle, not even for a minute, and making sure the vehicle is locked when an adult or parent is not present so children don’t get in it on their own and lock themselves in.

  • Creating reminders by placing an object in the backseat of the vehicle next to the child, such as a briefcase, purse, cell phone or toy that is needed at the driver’s destination. This is important if the adult or parent is not following their normal routine.

  • Taking action. If an individual sees a child alone in a vehicle, they should call 911 so that trained emergency personnel can come to the scene and save the child’s life.

Adults should get in the routine of “look before you lock,” checking to make sure there is no child in the backseat before they leave and lock up a vehicle. Parents and adults should keep vehicles locked at all times, even in driveways or garages, so that children can’t get into them on their own. Children may be able to lock the vehicle doors, but may not be able to unlock them, according to http://www.KidsAndCars.org.

In Texas, an adult can be charged with a misdemeanor if they intentionally leave a child in a vehicle for longer than five minutes if the child is younger than seven years of age and not with an individual who is 14 years of age and older.

A hot vehicle is also not suitable for a pet to be in. The American Veterinary Medical Association said hundreds of pets die each year from heat exhaustion after being locked in a vehicle.

Anyone who sees a pet unattended in a vehicle showing signs of heat stress should call law enforcement authorities immediately, according to the Humane Society of the United States. A caller who reports a pet in distress should get the vehicle’s license plate number, go to the nearest business to ask them to make a public announcement to locate the owner and go back and wait for authorities at the vehicle.

 While Texas does not have a law prohibiting leaving a pet alone in a hot vehicle, pet owners could be charged with animal cruelty under state law if an officer finds the animal shows signs of distress, or doesn’t have adequate water or airflow in the vehicle.

 At JBSA, people who notice a child or pet in distress in a vehicle should call 902nd SFS at JBSA-Randolph, 652-5700 or 5709; 802nd SFS at JBSA-Lackland, 671-3030; or the 502nd SFS at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston, 221-2244. In cases of emergency off base, call 911.

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