You probably know what it’s like to feel shock and anger when you see someone has left a child or pet locked in a car on a hot day. This is a very dangerous situation – 619 children died between 1998 and 2012 after being left in hot cars. Potentially thousands of pets have suffered the same fate. Deaths and injuries from heatstroke continue to increase these numbers each year.
Our vehicles act as greenhouses when sunlight hits them. Even when the temperature outside is only in the 60s, temperatures in a car can reach dangerous highs.
So what should you do when it’s warm or hot outside and there’s a child or an animal trapped in a car?
Call Emergency Services (911) First
Nineteen states have legislation against leaving children unattended in cars. Fourteen states have issued laws making it a crime to leave pets alone in vehicles. If you see that someone has left a child or a pet in a car, especially when the temperatures are high, call 911 first thing.
Also be sure to write down the make, model and license-plate number of the vehicle. You might find that parents and owners aren’t so willing to stick around once you tell them the police are on their way.
Take Action if Necessary
Many people, after seeing a child or animal locked in a car, choose to do nothing. Fear of breaking the law or of being sued causes people to shy away from taking action, but this is the wrong thing to do. If you don’t want to force your way into the car, at least stand by until the caregiver, owner or police arrive.
However, if the child or animal is in distress, worry about legal consequences later. Look for signs of heatstroke, which are different in humans and animals. Go ahead and get the child or animal out if you see signs of distress or heatstroke.
Use Caution When Breaking Windows
If you find yourself in a situation where a window must be broken, you should take serious precautions. Break the window that is furthest from the child or animal. With children, this can be easier. However animals in distress may be pacing throughout the vehicle.
The Resqme Keychain Car Escape Tool can be a lifesaver for a child or pet trapped in a hot car. You can use the tool’s spring-loaded spike to break the car window easily and safely. The Resqme tool has helped save three children locked in hot cars in the United States, three in Israel and two in Malta.
If you are a parent or pet owner, never leave your child or animal alone in the car. While many pet owners have stated car covers and foil sun screens help keep their vehicles cool and safe for pets, it’s best not to risk it. Besides heat-related injuries, so many other things could go wrong. The old adage comes to mind: “better safe than sorry.”