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Government Officials, Florida Safety Advocates and Victim’s Father Join Safe Kids to Highlight Dangers of Child Heatstroke Deaths in Hot Cars

July 22, 2014
Kate Carr, President and CEO, Safe Kids Worldwide

Safety advocates remind caregivers to never leave a child alone in a car and to be on the lookout for children left in cars

Boynton Beach, Fla. – As temperatures continue to rise, government officials and law enforcement officers today joined Safe Kids Palm Beach County and Children’s Services Council of Palm Beach County to discuss ways to prevent child deaths and injuries from heatstroke in hot cars.

So far this year, at least seventeen children have died from heatstroke while unattended in vehicles, including two children in Florida. Florida continues to be second in the nation in heatstroke fatalities – at least 68 Florida children have lost their lives since 1998.

Safe Kids Palm Beach County, Children’s Services Council of Palm Beach County and other safety advocates urged parents and caregivers to never leave a child alone, the primary message in the Safe Kids heatstroke public education campaign.

To learn more safety tips, visit: http://www.safekids.org/heatstroke

“We don’t want to see this tragedy happen to any family,” said Kate Carr, president and CEO of Safe Kids Worldwide. “That’s why we’re asking everyone to help protect kids from this very preventable tragedy by never leaving your child alone in a car, not even for a minute. Whether you’re a parent, or just a concerned bystander, you can help save lives.”

Many people are shocked to learn how hot the inside of a car can actually get. On an 80 degree day, the temperature inside of a car can rise 20 degrees in as little as 10 minutes and keep getting hotter with each passing minute. And cracking the window doesn’t help.

“Americans need to understand the simple fact that leaving a child unattended in a vehicle --whether on purpose or by mistake--puts that child at-risk for severe injury and death,” said David Friedman, Acting Administrator for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). “Heatstroke kills and it’s up to all of us—parents, grandparents, caregivers and bystanders —to act to protect our kids. Asking, where's baby and looking before you lock have to become a part of your driving routine."

Reggie McKinnon, a Florida father who lost his daughter, Payton, to heatstroke in 2010 also spoke at Tuesday’s event, sharing his personal story. Reggie has made it his mission to raise awareness about the dangers of heatstroke to help prevent this tragedy from happening to other families.

After he spoke, local law enforcement officers emphasized the role bystanders play in reducing such tragedies, highlighting two recent cases in South Florida.

Jupiter Police Chief Frank Kitzerow talked about an April 25 incident in which a woman walking in a shopping center parking lot saw a toddler in a locked vehicle. She called 911 and Kitzerow was one of the first law enforcement officers at the scene. Kitzerow pulled the child out of the car. Using thermometers, police concluded it was more than 100 degrees in the vehicle.

In the second case, Delray Beach police said a child was left unattended in a car on April 26 outside Tony’s Market & Deli on West Atlantic Avenue. A customer alerted shop owner Tony Hamdan and deli manager Andrew Castardi and the two men went into the car and took the child inside until police came.

Hamdan and Castardi were honored Tuesday with the Safe Kids Badge of Courage for their valiant act of rescuing a child at risk of heatstroke.

Heatstroke sets in when the body isn’t able to cool itself quickly enough. A child’s body heats up three to five times faster than adult’s, making them more susceptible to heatstroke. When a child’s internal temperature reaches 104 degrees, major organs begin to shut down, and when that temperature reaches 107 degrees, the child can die.

Safe Kids supports NHTSA’s heatstroke education campaign, “Where’s baby? Look before you lock,” and the increased national coordination on the issue. In addition, to help prevent these tragedies, Safe Kids, with the support of the General Motors Foundation, created Never Leave Your Child Alone in a Car (NLYCAC) as part of its Buckle Up program, a national initiative established 17 years ago to keep children and families safe in and around cars.

Parents, caregivers and bystanders are encouraged to help reduce the number of heatstroke deaths by remembering to ACT.

  • A: Avoid heatstroke-related injury and death by never leaving your child alone in a car, not even for a minute. And make sure to keep your car locked when you’re not in it so kids don’t get in on their own.  
  • C: Create reminders by putting something in the back of your car next to your child such as a briefcase, a purse or a cell phone that is needed at your final destination. This is especially important if you’re not following your normal routine.
  • T: Take action. If you see a child alone in a car, call 911. Emergency personnel want you to call. They are trained to respond to these situations. One call could save a life.


For more information on preventing child heatstroke deaths, contact Kelly Powell at 561-312-3770 or please visit www.safekids.org/heatstroke.  

About Safe Kids Palm Beach County
Safe Kids Palm Beach County works to prevent unintentional childhood injury, the number one cause of death for children in the United States. Safe Kids Palm Beach County is a member of Safe Kids Worldwide, a global network of organizations dedicated to preventing unintentional injury. Safe Kids Palm Beach County was founded in 1988 and is led by Community Partners. For more information, visit www.safekids.org or the Safe Kids Palm Beach County website.

About the GM Foundation
Since its inception in 1976, the GM Foundation has donated hundreds of millions of dollars to American charities, educational organizations and to disaster relief efforts worldwide. The GM Foundation focuses on supporting Education, Health and Human Services, the Environment and Community Development initiatives, mainly in the communities where GM operates. Funding of the GM Foundation comes solely from GM. The last contribution to the GM Foundation was made in 2001. For more information, visit www.gm.com/gmfoundation.

About Children’s Services Council of Palm Beach County:
Children’s Services Council of Palm Beach County funds Safe Kids Palm Beach County. Children’s Services Council is an independent special district that provides leadership, funding and research on behalf of the county’s children so they grow up healthy, safe and strong. To make the biggest impact, the Council focuses on prenatal health and early childhood development so more Palm Beach County children are born healthy, are safe from abuse and neglect, are ready to learn when they enter school  and have access to quality afterschool and summer programs. For more information, visit http://www.cscpbc.org.

Contact:

Jon Burstein, 561-374-7616
Jon.burstein@cscpbc.org 

Julie Kenneally, 202-662-4472
jkenneallyy@safekids.org

Kelly Powell, 561-312-3770
kpowell@cp-cto.org