By Tamas Mondovics
Each year July 31 has been designated as Heatstroke Prevention Day promoting social media conversation with a focus on awareness and quick action to saving lives of both young and old. As such, Hillsborough County officials, law enforcement and fire rescue are urging residents to pay more attention to parked vehicles.
With rising temperatures, especially during the summer months, the dangers of an overheated parked car is often ignored even by Floridians, who are by no means strangers to the heat.
According to experts, grim statistics forecast dozens of over-heated parked-car casualties across the U.S. This summer, five toddlers have died of heatstroke in hot, parked vehicles in Idaho, Florida, Louisiana and Arizona.
International Parking Institute (IPI) Communications Counsel, Helen Sullivan noted that while each year dozens of children die in this tragic way, the sad reality is that most often they are forgotten in the backseat by a busy parent or caregiver.
“Some fatalities occur when a child gains access on his or her own to a car that was left unlocked, but others are left intentionally in the car while a caregiver chooses to go shopping or run an errand,” Sullivan said.
To put things in perspective by the numbers, a car’s interior can reportedly rise 43 degrees in an hour and easily top 123 degrees on only an 80-degree day, even with the windows “cracked” open and within minutes, that sweltering environment can turn lethal for a child, whose body temperature rises three to five times faster than an adult’s.
“Losing a child this way is heartbreaking, and has happened to even the best of parents,” said Shawn Conrad, CAE, IPI’s executive director.
Besides being alert to protecting one’s own children, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office and Fire Rescue wants residents to be vigilant and if they see a child alone in a hot vehicle to call 911.
“The sad thing is that these tragedies are 100 percent preventable,” said HCFR spokesperson Ronnie Rivera.
Experts across the country agree that if the child is in distress due to heat, it is best to get that child out as quickly as possible, cool the child rapidly by spraying the child with cool water or with water from a garden hose (an ice bath isn’t necessary nor desirable). Visit safercar.gov /heatstroke, or www.parking.org.