As 90-degree streak continues, what to do when you see child alone in hot car

PADUCAH — Eleven straight days and counting: The streak of 90-degree weather continues in Paducah. With that in mind, it’s important to know what to do when you see a child left alone in a hot car.

Since 1998, 813 children have died in the U.S. after being left in hot cars, according to the National Safety Council. That includes a record 52 children in 2018 and 18 children so far this year.

The National Safety Council says when the outside ambient air temperature is just 72 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature inside a car can reach 117 degrees within 60 minutes, with 80% of the increase happening in the first half hour. Generally, when the outside ambient air temperature is between 72 degrees and 96 degrees, it takes an hour for the inside of a car to be 40 degrees hotter.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said even with a window cracked open, temperatures inside a vehicle can jump nearly 20 degrees within the first 10 minutes.

Paducah Police Officer Gretchen Morgan said the department only gets a handful of calls each year of children being left in hot cars. Still, people should be mindful of how quickly the temperatures can spike.

Officers in Oklahoma recently found a 14-month-old child left alone in a hot car.

“When you arrive somewhere and your air conditioner’s been on, you think, ‘Well, it’ll stay cool for just a few minutes. And within about five minutes, your car immediately starts to heat up to very high temperatures,” said Morgan. “(Children) heat up much more quickly than we do. Their bodies can’t sweat or cool themselves down as easily as adults can.”

Morgan said if you see a child left alone in a hot car, you should immediately call 911.

“Monitor the child. Make sure they’re still doing OK, look like they’re not suffering or not having any distress,” said Morgan. “And then if you see, hey, this child is in distress now, then go ahead and break the window.”

Morgan said under Kentucky law, you are allowed to break a car’s window “as long as you have a good faith that, that person is inside the car, can’t operate it, can’t open it, can’t provide relief to themselves as far as getting cool air.”

Morgan said you should break the window “using the least amount of force reasonable necessary to break that window, and remove that person or child to a safe location.”

You must call 911 prior to breaking the window, said Morgan. After you break the window, you should stay near the vehicle until first responders arrive.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that if the child is unresponsive, spray the child with cool water after getting the child out of the hot car. If the child is responsive, stay with the child until first responders arrive and have someone else search for the driver.

Also be aware of symptoms of heatstroke. According to the NHTSA, they include: red, hot and moist or dry skin; a lack of sweating; a strong, rapid pulse or slow, weak pulse; nausea and confusion or strange behavior.

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