SEBRING — On Tuesday, Frank Olivero Jr., a firefighter with West Sebring Volunteer Fire Department, found a 10-month-old child left unattended in a hot car at Sun ‘n Lake Elementary School’s parking lot, according to a post on West Sebring Volunteer Fire Department’s Facebook page.
Olivero opened the door, cooled the child down in another car and called authorities. Emergency Medical Services arrived and checked on the child. Fortunately, the child was not seriously harmed.
Highlands County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Scott Dressel said, “An investigation is still ongoing.”
Although this child recovered, the statistics are bleak. On average, a child dies every 10 days from heatstroke after being left in a car, according to Safe Kids Worldwide.
Heatstroke and death are risks when children are left alone in vehicles. In 2017, 43 children died in a hot car, according to the National Safety Council. The national average per year for children dying from pediatric vehicular heatstroke is 37. With last year’s total at 43, there was a 16 percent increase from the national average.
In addition to children dying in hot cars, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) stated that hundreds of pets die every year, and cracking the windows makes no difference.
“Your vehicle can quickly reach a temperature that puts your pet at risk of serious illness and even death, even on a day that doesn’t seem hot to you,” stated the AVMA.
Unlike humans, dogs and cats can’t sweat to cool themselves. They should not be left in a car, even with the windows cracked. Rising temperatures in a closed car can be deadly for pets, as well as humans.
Some people are unaware of just how quickly the temperature in a car can climb. According to the University of Georgia, “In hot weather in an open parking lot, the inside temperature of a car can rise by 7 degrees Fahrenheit in five minutes, 13 degrees in 10 minutes, 29 degrees in 30 minutes and 47 degrees in an hour.”
This means that on a spring or early summer day when the temperature is just 80 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature in the car can be 127 degrees in less than an hour.
Not only do temperatures in cars rise quickly, but young children are more at risk for heatstroke and death because their bodies heat up three to five times more quickly than an adult’s body, stated Safe Kids Worldwide.
Some parents do not want to wake a sleeping child, but the risks are too high. A child should never be left alone in a car, not even for a minute.
Other times parents forget about a child sleeping in a car when their routine changes. Safe Kids Worldwide recommends keeping a stuffed animal in a child’s car seat when it is empty. When the child is placed in the car seat, parents can then move the stuffed animal to the front seat to be used as a visual reminder that a child is still in the back seat.
Another idea is to place all work essentials in the back seat with the child. Parents will need to retrieve their phones, briefcases and purses before leaving for work, and they will see the child in the back seat.
Safe Kids Worldwide also recommends placing reminders on a cell phone or calendar to make sure that the child has been dropped off at child care. The child care provider can also be asked to call the parent if the child does not show up that day.
Even diligent parents sometimes have children who die in cars. Some children have used cars as hiding places while playing games such as hide and seek. They accidentally lock themselves in the car or trunk. To prevent this problem, parents should keep their vehicles locked and keep keys and key fobs in a secure place where children can not reach them or see them.
Concerned citizens, such as Frank Olivero Jr., sometimes find children left alone in a vehicle. Olivero was able to remove the child because the door was unlocked. He also contacted authorities and EMS arrived to check on the child. Citizens can follow Olivero’s lead and call 911 if they spot a child left alone in a vehicle. People must act quickly to prevent a tragedy from occurring.