As summer sets in and the Carolina heat radiates daily, agencies are hoping an annual reminder of the dangers of leaving children and pets in unattended vehicles is burned into drivers' minds.
The temperature inside a vehicle rises 20 degrees in …
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Several websites have heat safety information and tips:
The temperature inside a vehicle rises 20 degrees in just 10 minutes, making even a quick trip inside the grocery store or any other errand dangerous and potentially deadly for anyone, especially children, vulnerable adults and animals.
Sumter police officers respond to calls each summer reporting a child or a pet is locked in a vehicle with an adult nowhere to be found, Sumter Police Department Public Information Officer Tonyia McGirt said.
She said anyone who sees a child or pet inside an unattended vehicle should call 911 immediately and that telecommunications personnel will notify first responders and advise based on the situation.
Heat dangers in a vehicle are present when on cloudy days, according to AAA Carolinas.
"Both children and animals cannot help themselves if they are trapped inside a quickly warming vehicle, so it is our duty to make sure they're never put in that situation," said Tiffany Wright, AAA Carolinas spokeswoman. "Cracking the windows does little to stop the temperatures from rising quickly, so from here on through the fall, look before you lock to ensure your child is not in the car when you exit, and if you do not plan to take your pets with you at every stop, leave them at home."
Heat stroke is the leading cause of non-crash vehicle-related deaths for children under the age of 14, according to AAA Carolinas, with an average of 37 fatalities per year since 1998. There has been an increase in child vehicular heat stroke deaths every year since 2015.
"You should never leave a child in a car even with the windows down because it won't take much for the child to overheat," Sumter County Sheriff Anthony Dennis said. "A child, and a pet for that matter, cannot handle heat like an adult, and it will not take long for temperatures to rise inside the car if the air conditioning fails or the car cuts off."
Dennis said there have been "tragic deaths in the past locally" because a child was left inside a hot car.
"We hope people will be more cautious and not take the risk," he said.
AAA Carolinas wants motorists to "act" - to avoid heatstroke by never leaving a child in the car alone, "not even for a minute"; to create an electronic reminder or put something in the backseat you need when exiting the car, such as a cellphone, purse or wallet and to always lock the car and never leave car keys or a car remote where children can get to them; and to take action by immediately calling 911 if you notice a child unattended in the car.
Following are some vehicular heat-related statistics:
- A child's body heats up three to five times faster than an adult's body;
- A child can die of heat stroke on a 72-degree day;
- On a 95-degree day, a car can heat up to more than 180 degrees;
- The steering wheel can reach 159 degrees (temperature for cooking medium rare meat);
- The seats can reach 162 degrees (temperature for cooking ground beef);
- The dash can reach 181 degrees (temperature for cooking poultry); and
- At 104 degrees, internal organs start to shut down.
Our furry friends are not able to sweat when they overheat like humans can, so their only defense is to pant heavily.
When panting is not enough, pets can suffer from heatstroke.
Following are some common symptoms of heatstroke in pets:
- Excessive drooling;
- Increased body temperature (above 103 degrees);
- Reddened gums and moist tissues of the body;
- Rapid heart rate;
- Irregular heart beats;
- Stoppage of the heart and breathing;
- Fluid buildup in the lungs, sudden breathing distress;
- Vomiting blood;
- Muscle tremors; and
If you pass by a parked vehicle with an animal inside it and no driver in sight, AAA Carolinas urges you to take action.
It is recommended that you:
- Attempt to locate the owner;
- Call 911 if that doesn't seem feasible or the situation is too urgent. Any rescue worker (police, animal control, firefighter, animal cruelty investigator, etc.) has the legal authority to enter the vehicle if the animal is thought to be in danger;
- Remain with the animal until help arrives; and
- If you think the animal to be in imminent danger and help has not arrived, use your best judgment (considering the possible legal ramifications of breaking and entering) to save the pet.
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