Hot cars a danger zone for kids and pets, and heat-sensitive items a risk in 'oven' environment
by Brande Poulnot
Jul 08, 2010 | 5346 views | 0 0 comments | 19 19 recommendations | email to a friend | print
When placed in a locked car Tuesday for a short amount of time, this thermometer registered more than 130 degrees. With temperatures around 80 degrees outside, a vehicle’s inside temperature can jump at least 19 degrees in 10 minutes, with the heat in the car continuing to rise, posing a danger to children and pets left inside.  Illustration Skip Butler/The Daily Tribune News
When placed in a locked car Tuesday for a short amount of time, this thermometer registered more than 130 degrees. With temperatures around 80 degrees outside, a vehicle’s inside temperature can jump at least 19 degrees in 10 minutes, with the heat in the car continuing to rise, posing a danger to children and pets left inside. Illustration Skip Butler/The Daily Tribune News
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With high temperatures averaging around 91 degrees in June and 88 degrees so far in July, the heat expected to reach almost 100 degrees today could be even more dangerous, especially inside vehicles.

With an 80-degree outside temperature, a vehicle's inside temperature can jump 19 degrees in 10 minutes, and the heat in the car will continue to rise, much like in an oven.

A California university's nationwide count of hyperthermia deaths of children left in vehicles puts this year's total at 20 through June 27, including the April 23 death of 21-month-old Joseph Chatmon in Forsyth, Ga.

"As the temperatures rise, we are now seeing almost daily reports from the media around the country of kids being rescued after being left in cars," said Dr. Patrick O'Neal, director of Georgia Department of Community Health's Division of Emergency Preparedness and Response, in a June press release. "This shows that these deaths are preventable. Extra planning by the driver and quick action by concerned bystanders can make the difference for these kids."

A child's body temperature rises three to five times faster than an adult's, putting kids at greater risk for heat stroke, a life-threatening emergency that can cause permanent brain damage or even death, especially in children.

That is why local firefighters say if they find a child who has been locked in a hot car, rescue crews will take immediate action.

"If we do get a call about a child locked in a vehicle and that car is not running, at this time of year, we got in our mind, when we get there, just break the window," Cartersville Fire Marshall Mark Hathaway said. "We're not going to fool around trying to unlock a car when it's 98 degrees out and its windows are rolled up and a child inside.

"If the windows are cracked, it helps some but not much. We all leave our windows cracked this time of year to try to keep the heat out. It helps a little, but we use common sense. If there's a child in distress, we're not going to hesitate."

Cracking the windows to allow a pet to stay in the car, where temperatures can reach 120 degrees in a matter of minutes, also could mean trouble for four-legged friends.

The Humane Society of the United States warns motorists to never lock pets, who can't perspire and only dispel heat by panting and through the pads of their feet, in a car. Dogs and cats left inside briefly also can suffer from heat exhaustion, heat stroke, brain damage and death.

There are not only dangers in leaving children in pets inside hot cars, as certain common household yet heat-sensitive items become projectiles in high temperatures.

About two weeks ago, Cartersville firefighters were called to 100 Cherokee Place where an Axe body spray can exploded inside a Nissan Altima, blowing out its rear window and the window in a nearby minivan, which was occupied by two people.

"They're pressurized containers, and as they get hotter the pressure builds up and it just explodes," Hathaway said. "It left one vehicle and landed in another vehicle, through two windows."

Firefighters say fortunately no one was injured during the incident.

Daylong heat wave

National Weather Service meteorologists predicted today's temperatures to be 5 to 10 degrees above normal. The record high is 103 degrees, and Cartersville may come close with predictions of a 99-degree high today.

"Last week we had a front that came through ... and we had some really nice temperatures because we got rid of some of our humidity. What happened is we had a high-pressure system that was over the Atlantic and it's moved. Right now it's sitting in the mountains of North Carolina. Because it's sitting there, it's rotating clockwise and bringing warm air up into Georgia. ... As that high moves and establishes itself a little bit better, we'll start getting our winds coming from the north instead of southerly directions. And because of that the wind has to travel more over land than over water and the water usually keeps those a little more temperate," Meteorologist Robert Garcia said Wednesday. "When it travels over the land, it has a perfectly good opportunity to warm up and that's why we get these really high temperatures."

A slight chance of showers Friday and a 50 percent chance of the same Saturday will likely have a cooling effect.

"Those showers should help cool us down, and then it looks like we're going to start returning to our more normal thunderstorms in the afternoon type of routine where we have those highs in the upper 80s and lows in the upper 60s or around 70," Garcia said.

Sidebar:

Prevent heat-related deaths of children in cars

About 37 children nationwide die from heat stroke each year after being left alone in hot cars, according to Georgia Department of Community Health's website. In more than 50 percent of cases, an adult forgot to take the child out of the car when he or she left the vehicle.

To help prevent heat-related injuries for children in cars:

* Call 911 immediately if you see a child alone in a car. If they are hot or seem sick, get them out as quickly as possible.

* Never leave a child alone in a car -- not even for a minute, not even if the windows are down.

* Set a reminder on your cell phone, BlackBerry or computer to be sure that you drop your child at daycare.

* Place your cell phone, purse or briefcase on the floor of the back seat. This will help remind you to open the back door and see that your child is in the car.

* Ask your childcare provider to call if your child does not arrive when expected.

* Lock car doors and always keep keys out of reach of young children. Teach children not to play in or around cars.

* If a child is missing, check your vehicle(s) first.