In the Valley’s hot climate it takes only moments for a car’s heat to become deadly for children and pets.
The Phoenix Fire Department demonstrated just how hot a car can get on Monday. They placed a thermometer inside a car and shut the doors. It was less than 80 degrees outside, but the thermometer in the car was above 140 degrees within 20 minutes.
“We have this every year to try and remind parents or grandparents that if you put a child in a car seat, you are the one that is responsible for taking that child back out of the car seat,” said Dr. John Gallagher, EMS medical director for the Phoenix Fire Department. “Don’t assume that your relative has done it or that just for a few minutes they will be OK. You can’t leave children in hot cars. It’s rapidly deadly.”
Children’s thermoregulatory systems are not as efficient as an adult’s. Children’s body temperatures rise at a rate three to five times faster than an adult’s, according to the Phoenix Fire Department.
When a child or pet is found inside a locked car firefighters use a small tool to break the window, pull the victim out of the car, and begin rescue efforts. Children are taken to the hospital while pets are often seized and turned over to the Arizona Humane Society.
“It’s a comfort knowing they can get someone out of a car that quickly,” said Thelda Williams, co-chair of the city’s animal cruelty task force. “What’s frustrating to me is that people don’t take it seriously enough leaving them in there in the first place and secondly, people see kids or animals in the car and don’t call police. You need to call right away if you see an animal or a child in the car. Even if the window is slightly cracked they can still die.”
A 2002 study of rising temperatures in cars showed that in 10 minutes the average temperature inside the car rises 19 degrees. In 60 minutes the temperature could rise more than 43 degrees compared to the temperature outside the car. Cracking the windows had little effect on the recorded temperatures.
Bretta Nelson of the Arizona Humane Society said people just need to be aware.
“We just want people to err on the side of caution when it comes to your pets,” she said. “This isn’t the time of year to be taking them places in the car. If you’re inclined to take them on errands just don’t do it. It can turn deadly so quickly. Older breeds or short-nosed breeds like Boxers and Pugs especially can succumb in a matter of minutes or it can be a very long, drawn out, tragic death. I don’t think anyone ever means for that, but they just don’t think about it.”
Already two children have died in the U.S. of heat stroke after being left in a car in 2014. Forty-four died last year.
The Phoenix Fire Department suggests placing a stuffed animal or bag in the front seat, to remind yourself of a child in the back seat.
If a child or dog is seen in a car unattended, call 911.
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