Preventing Heatstroke Deaths: Dangers Of Leaving Children Alone In Cars

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MUSKEGON COUNTY, Mich. (July 1, 2014)– A local organization is talking about the dangers of leaving children alone in hot cars.

Just this year, according to Safe Kids Worldwide, 12 children nationwide died from heatstroke as a result of being left in sweltering conditions. Last year, there were 44 deaths.

Safe Kids West Michigan is teaming up with the Fruitport Police Department to help raise awareness about the danger on a local level.

On Tuesday, Holly Alway, the organization’s coordinator, and Det. Lt. Bruce Morningstar could be seen standing outside the Walmart on Sherman Blvd. in Muskegon. With a display attached to a thermometer, they showed parents  and members of the community that while things may be cool on the outside things are heating up inside their vehicles.

“It’s 80 degrees out here in the parking lot,” Alway said. “Inside this vehicle it’s over 95 degrees and that’s with the windows cracked.”

While the clouds kept the truck on display within the 90 degree range, Morningstar said once the sun exposes itself the temperature can spike dramatically.

“At one point we tested it, it was 71 degrees outside and it was 106 degrees inside,” Morningstar said.

It’s a scorching heat that can be lethal for children.

“At 103 degrees a child’s internal organs are gonna start to shut down,” Alway said. “At 107 degrees that becomes fatal.”

For many parents, Alway said they sometimes leave their children alone in a car when making a “quick trip” into a store. It’s a move that’s more dangerous than most people realize. She said within just 10 minutes the temperature inside a vehicle can increase by as much as 20 degrees.

Morningstar said his department gets calls every summer about children being left alone inside a car.

“A lot of times people think they’re just going to be in and out real quick,” Morningstar said. “That’s when we get the calls…They don’t want to wake the child, it’s sleeping soundly so they want to run in real quick and what they anticipate being a quick trip doesn’t end up that way. A lot of time when we’re coming out the child’s been left out much longer than the parent anticipated being inside the store.”

The campaign to raise awareness is asking parents to ACT.

A: Avoid heatstroke-related injury and death by never leaving your child alone in a car, not even for a minute. Always lock your doors and trunks – even in your driveway. And keep your keys and key fobs out of the reach of kids.

C: Create reminders. Place something you’ll need at your next stop – like a briefcase or cell phone – next to the child safety seat. It may seem simple, but can be a helpful reminder on a chaotic day.

T: Take action. If you see a child alone in a car, take action. Call 911. Emergency personnel are trained to respond to these situations.

Alway said that in 50 percent of all cases parents leave their children in the backseat after forgetting they’re there. She said more than 20 percent are the result of kids who got inside an unlocked car and couldn’t get back out, with 18 percent of the heatstroke cases resulting after the children were left in the car voluntarily.

“Nobody wants to go through losing a child and that’s why this campaign is so important,” Alway said. “We want to prevent those injuries and we want to prevent those fatalities because they’re 100 percent preventable.”






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