Clear Your Car campaign reminds Kingman parents not to leave children in hot car
KINGMAN - It's a tragedy that happens nearly every year.
It happens in parking lots and in driveways across the U.S., in hot weather and cool. According to San Francisco State University's Department of Geosciences, nearly half of its victims are under the age of 3.
According to SFSU, it killed 33 children last year and has killed more than 500 since 1998. It has already claimed five lives nationwide since the beginning of this year and Kingman first responders have already received one call this summer.
A child left strapped into its child seat in a hot car in a parking lot. A police officer had to break a window to get the child out. The child was OK, but it is unknown how long the child had been sitting in the car.
This is not the first time this has happened in Kingman.
In August 2010, Kingman firefighters responded to a call of a child left in the backseat of a car with the windows rolled down, parked outside of Walmart.
The outside air temperature was 100 degrees. The baby's temperature after he was rushed to Kingman Regional Medical Center was 101. Firefighters believe the child had been sitting in the car for at least 20 minutes before a passerby heard him crying and called 911.
The young parents told first responders that they were on a quick trip for picnic supplies and didn't realize a family member had put the child in the car.
A month later, Kingman firefighter Tanner Miller and handful of firefighters responded to a call of a child locked in a car in a driveway. After working the night shift and dropping the child's mother off at work, the infant's father forgot the child was in the backseat. The baby died.
It doesn't matter if you roll down the window, or drive a light colored car or have tinted windows, he said. There's no relief. Even a quick 20 to 30 minute run into the store can spell a death for a child left behind in a hot car.
Children are especially susceptible to heat stroke and hyperthermia, because their bodies can't adapt to the ambient air temperature as quickly as adults can, Miller said.
It's never a good idea to leave any child or even a pet unattended in a car or let them play in a car at any time of the year, he said. Even on a 40-degree day the temperature in car can reach deadly levels.
The first thing that goes through someone's mind when you hear a story like this, is 'how could you forget your child,' Miller said. But it is surprisingly easy.
New parents are usually worn out, stressed out and sleep deprived, he said.
Even experienced parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, babysitters and family friends can forget a child in the backseat.
The Internet is full of news stories about children left in the backseat of a hot car. The most common reason is because the caregiver forgot the child, according to SFSU.
A lot of the stories quote grieving parents, family members or even babysitters who say they forgot the child because something had disrupted their normal routine.
The two 2010 calls really shook Miller. He has children. It also got him to thinking of ways to alert parents to how hot a car can really get and educate the public at the same time.
"I was looking for some way to use technology, to give it that "cool factor" so people would actually use it," Miller said.
Miller's first idea was a thermometer that would stick to the side of a car seat. That would alert parents to how hot it was in the car, but it wouldn't remind them to take the child out.
After discussing the idea with members of the local chapter of the International Association of Firefighters and the KRMC
Foundation last year, Miller came up with the idea of a rear view mirror hanger with a thermometer.
The hanger is about the same size as one of those annoying advertisements you sometimes find hanging on your door when you come home from work. It features an LCD thermometer on one side that can read temperatures between 85 and 140 degrees.
To test the hanger, a Miner employee left the tag in her light blue car with the windows cracked for about two hours on a 95-degree day. Within 15 minutes the thermometer read 120 degrees. Half an hour later it was hovering between 120 and 130 degrees.
The opposite side features tips on how to avoid leaving your child in the car, such as keeping a stuffed animal in the child's car seat when it's not in use and moving the toy to the front of the car when the child is sitting in the seat.
Miller's other tips include putting a sticky note on your dash; or put something important that you are likely to search for if it is missing in the backseat with the child, such as your purse, briefcase or cell phone, he said.
KRMC and the association split the cost of printing and design for the hangers.
"We're just glad we could partner with Tanner and the association on something that is 100 percent preventable," said KRMC's Special Events Coordinator Scott Kern. The hanger will be distributed as part of KRMC's new parents info packet, he said.
"We're trying to reach those with the youngest children first," Miller said. Since those are the ones most likely to be left behind.
But parents aren't the only people Miller is trying to reach. He's also trying to reach out to the general public.
"If you see a child or a pet left in a car in a parking lot, please call 911," he said. "One child is too much."