By Michael Golembesky
21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — Summer is near with warm weather and sunny Colorado days ahead. For many parents here this means increasingly hectic schedules, family road trips and children’s activities. It’s also the time to remember about the dangers associated with leaving children unattended in vehicles.
Research by kidsandcars.org has shown that within 10 minutes, the temperature inside a car can rise to 20 degrees higher than the outside air. Within half an hour, the car can get 34 degrees hotter. Within an hour, the temperature inside the car plateaus at 40-50 degrees warmer than the outside air. Cracking the windows has little effect on the temperature inside the car.
On average, 38 children die in hot cars each year from heat-related deaths after being trapped inside motor vehicles. Even the best parents or caregivers can overlook a sleeping baby in a car, however, the end result can be injury or death.
About 87 percent of children who have died from vehicular heat stroke are age 3 and younger. Here are a few simple rules from a child safety organization that can help prevent this dangerous situation from happening in your life.
- Never leave children alone in cars, not even for a minute.
- Teach children that vehicles are never to be used as a play area.
- Put something you’ll need like your cell phone, handbag, employee ID or brief case on the floor board in the back seat so you are sure to check the backseat every time.
- Get in the habit of always opening the back door of your vehicle every time you reach your destination to make sure no child has been left behind. This will soon become a habit.
- Keep a large stuffed animal in the child’s car seat when it’s not occupied. When the child is placed in the seat, put the stuffed animal in the front passenger seat. It’s a visual reminder that anytime the stuffed animal is up front you know the child is in the back seat in a child safety seat.
- Keep vehicles locked at all times; even in the garage or driveway and always set your parking brake.
- Keys and/or remote openers should never be left within reach of children.
- When a child is missing, check vehicles and car trunks immediately.
- If you see a child alone in a vehicle, get involved. If they are hot or seem sick, get them out as quickly as possible. Call 911 immediately.
In addition, Peterson Child and Youth supervision guidelines state that children younger than 10 years may not be left alone in a vehicle without supervision for any amount of time on base.
If a call is made to the base defense operations center about an unattended child, the dispatcher initiates Quick Reaction Checklist number 17, which is child abuse and child neglect. Appropriate forces, including the 21st SFS, fire department, and possibly medical response will be called to the scene.
Consequences vary on a case-by-case basis but at the minimum, a notification of the incident will be made to the member’s command.
For additional information about ways to keep children safe in and around vehicles, go to http://www.kidsandcars.org/heatstroke.html.