Fire Department reminds caregivers to not leave children in hot cars

19 fatalities reported nationwide; demonstration shows how quickly dangers can rise

Published: July 9 2013 | 1:31 pm - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 4:36 am in

This year, there have been 19 deaths nationwide due to children being inside overheated cars for too long.

Of those, four occurred in the last week, including three on July 5 alone.

And while none of those fatalities occurred in Iowa, local residents are not immune to forgetting a child in a hot car, which officials warn can have dire consequences.

Cedar Rapids Fire Department public information officer Greg Buelow said the department responded to 31 lockouts involving children in the last fiscal year.

“These are the ones where the fire department was actually called,” Buelow said. “Who knows how many others are out there?”

With temperatures hitting the 90s on Monday and likely to hit that mark again before the summer is over, Nicky Stansell, the fire department’s public education manager, is reminding parents and caregivers to never leave children left in a hot vehicle.

To demonstrate her point, Stansell put a thermometer inside a car Tuesday afternoon. While Tuesday’s highs were only in the 80s, the temperature in the car was reading in the low 90s.

“Within 10 minutes, the temperature will rise about 19 degrees (inside the car),” she said.

On a 90-degree day, that difference between the temperature inside and outside of the car can be fatal. When a child’s body temperature reaches 104 degrees, their body organs start to shut down, Stansell said. At 107 degrees, the child can die.

Stansell also noted that a child’s internal temperature will rise three to five times faster than an adult’s.

Buelow said the most common locations for lockout calls involving children were gas stations, grocery stores and schools.

Stansell said more than half of all fatalities involving children in cars are caused by the child being forgotten in the back of the car by a caregiver. This occurs most often when there is a “change in routine,” Stansell said, such as when a different parent is tasked with dropping the child off at daycare.

“A really good tip is to leave something you’re going to need that day in the back seat,” Stansell said.

Nearly 30 percent of the deaths were children trapped or playing in unattended vehicles.

“Parents should lock their vehicles,” Stansell said.

Stansell said the best thing for parents to do is never leave their children alone in a hot vehicle, even for a minute.

“Parents think they can run into the store for a few minutes…and they end up taking 20 minutes,” she said.

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