So far in 2010, 17 children have died in the United States while alone in a vehicle, and the summer is just getting under way. We have all heard of stories of children dying in vehicles in the hot summer months so let's plan ahead on how we can avoid this tragedy happening to us.
A child's body can heat up three to five times faster than an adult's body. Knowing this, it may take just a few minutes in a hot car before a child can become overheated. In most cases, the kids left in cars are locked in or are infants in baby seats who can't get out, further compounding the problem.
More than 30 children die alone in vehicles in the hot summer months every year. It takes just 10 minutes for a car's temperature to increase by 19 degrees Fahrenheit, and it continues to rise from that point. On a day where the temperature is a nice 82 degrees, the inside of a closed vehicle can reach 113 degrees in less than 30 minutes! While cracking the windows may help a bit, the direct sunlight coming through car windows makes the interior of the car like an oven.
Let's start with the obvious tip of never leaving a child unattended in a car during the hot summer months. Some people claim that they “forgot” their child was with them, thinking the child was with another person. Place your important items that you won't forget, like a purse, cell phone, briefcase of gym bag near the child in the car. This will force you to be near the child while retrieving these items and you will be less likely to “forget” about the child being with you.
Set reminders on your computer program and cell phone to trigger you to think about where you child is when you sit down to work or make a phone call. Consider asking your day care to call you if your child is more than 10 minutes late arriving at day care so you can start tracking them down early on.
Teach your children not to play in any vehicle. In addition to the heat, we have all heard of stories where cars have been started, slipped out of gear or kids had body parts trapped in windows and doors. Lock all vehicle doors after everyone has exited the vehicle and keep it locked. This keeps the temptation to a minimum for playing in the vehicle, especially if the car keys are normally kept out of the reach of children. If your child does turn up missing, check the inside of the vehicle and the trunk first, as temperatures rise quickly.
Keep a spare set of keys in the home in a place the adults are familiar with, such as a container in a closet high on a shelf. If the child is locked in the vehicle with the keys, you have a spare set you can retrieve quickly.
Remember that your Livonia firefighters have tools to access your vehicle in an emergency as well. In an emergency situation, call us.
The summer months should be a time where kids catch up on outside playtime and spending time with friends and family. It is our job to make sure they do this safely.
Tom Kiurski is training coordinator for the Livonia Fire Department.