Children, animals, hot cars - a lethal combination

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Anania Tekurio
  • 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
As soon as the doors open, they feel hot, stale air waft over them. Sweat beads start to dot their foreheads as they load grocery bag after grocery bag in the back of the SUV. When they reach up to close the door, they look toward the car seat and realize what they forgot.

Summer is a time when people participate in outdoor activities and spend time with family and friends. However, the warmer temperatures bring safety concerns like heat-related illnesses which can lead to death, especially to children and animals left unattended in parked vehicles.

To be a child or a pet trapped in a car is horrific to imagine and is an all-too-real scenario on the rise.

"The next few months are a great time to enjoy South Dakota and the warm weather," said Col. Kevin Kennedy, 28th Bomb Wing commander. "However, we need to recognize the risks unique to summer and ensure we are taking the right steps to protect ourselves and our families."

Since 1998, 611 children have died in the U.S. from hyperthermia after being left in a hot vehicle, reports Kids and Cars, a nonprofit safety group. Hyperthermia is a medical emergency where the body produces or absorbs more heat than it can dissipate and can lead to brain damage, kidney failure and death.

"Even if you think you're running a quick errand, it's important to understand just how quickly the temperature inside an enclosed car can rise," said Staff Sgt. Sylvester Snell, 28th Medical Operations Squadron public health technician.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, temperatures can climb from 78 degrees to 100 degrees in just three minutes and to 125 degrees in six to eight minutes.

Kennedy added that awareness and a few preventative steps can break the chain and prevent a tragedy.

These tips include locking the vehicle so children cannot climb in by accident, securing keys, taking children into the house when arriving at home, and warning children about playing in cars without adult supervision.

Parents are advised to place a belonging, such as a purse or briefcase, near the child as a reminder to check the back seat, as well as make a habit of looking in the vehicle prior to walking away.

Each year, people leave children and pets in vehicles, causing preventable tragedies if proper steps are taken beforehand. Never leave a child unattended in a vehicle, and in case of emergency call 911.