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Summer heat makes cars death traps for children and animals

January 07, 2013
Parents leave kids in backseat by accident,often leading to tragic consequences

With temperatures reaching upwards of 110 degrees, it is particularly important that we launch our second annual "Check Your Seats in the Heat... Because Heat Kills" campaign this July. The campaign was created last year to raise awareness of the dangers of leaving children and pets in hot vehicles during the summer months.

At least 33 children in the United States died of heat illnesses last year after they were left in hot cars, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The parents of more than half the children who died from being left in hot cars simply forgot that their kids were in the vehicle. Cars heat up very quickly, trapping the sun's heat like a greenhouse, even with a window rolled down two inches.

In just 10 minutes under Nevada's hot summer sun, the inside temperature of a car can increase by as much as 30 degrees. A young child's body temperature can increase three to five times faster than that of an adult and they lack the ability to cool off by sweating. High body temperatures can cause permanent injury, brain damage or even death.

To prevent these dangers, parents should make it a habit to leave something on the backseat you will need when you exit the car, such as a cell phone or handbag, so you'll be certain to check the back seat.

Also get in the habit of opening the rear car door as soon as you exit your vehicle. If you stop to do something else first, you could forget. Children sometimes climb into cars, unknown to parents, and become trapped or fall asleep. You can prevent this by leaving your car doors locked even if you are parked in the garage of your home. Keep keys and garage remotes out of reach. If your child is missing, first check your pool and then check your car interior and trunk.

You can also take measures if you do discover a child has been left in a hot car. The most important thing is to get involved. This is an emergency situation. Remove the child from the car and if he is hot to the touch or seems sick, call 911. These actions may seem like common sense, but people are often reluctant or embarrassed to get involved.

With this campaign, our community partners, the Kiwanis of Greater Henderson, will be at Smith's stores the next four Saturdays (Aug. 4, 11, 18, 25) distributing red ribbons. These red ribbons can be tied somewhere visible in your car or on your key chain as a reminder to check seats in the heat. We will be placing awareness posters in hundreds of local businesses, recreation centers and schools. Perhaps most importantly, a public service announcement produced last year will air throughout the summer months, thanks to our partner, COX Communications.

We cannot spread this message alone. It is through our community partners: The City of Henderson, the City of Henderson Police Department, the City of Henderson Fire Department, the Henderson Police Officers' Association, the Kiwanis of Greater Henderson, Smiths and Ford Country that we can effectively raise awareness on this issue. We would also like to thank our sponsors: Frank's Auto Body, Gene's Locksmith and ALFAC. Together, with our partners and sponsors, we can maintain Henderson's standing as one as the safest cities in the nation.

Dan Pentkowski has served the City of Henderson as a professional firefighter paramedic for eight years. As president of the Henderson Professional Fire Fighters, Pentkowski represents members of the Henderson Fire Department and works to ensure the highest level of service and safety to the community.

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