Local first responders discuss dangers of leaving children in hot cars


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As temperatures continue at summer like levels, first responders are urging people to protect their children from being left in hot cars.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 52 children died after being left or becoming trapped in hot cars in 2018.

“Days like today, we’re approaching 90,” said Chief David Bell of the Johnson City Fire Department, “by the hour mark you’re looking at 130 [degrees] or plus.”

But Bell said the temperatures can be problematic much sooner. 

“In 30 minutes, it could be deadly,” he said, “you’re going to cause heat stroke and the child can go unconscious.”

Between 1998 and 2018, 27 children in Tennessee died from vehicular heatstroke, making the state 11th for the highest number of pediatric vehicular heatstrokes per capita.

“A lot of times these days, people are distracted,” said Bell, “whether it be texting, social media, whatever it is they are looking at, they can easily just forget that they even have their children in place.”

Bell showed us how fast his car heated up after 15 to 20 minutes.

“The car was running with the air conditioning on prior to me shutting it off,” he said, “now we’re showing at 115 degrees and this is with me opening the door just moments ago.”

“With no circulated air, it doesn’t take much for a child, a pet, the elderly or anybody with some type of disability,” said Capt. Michael Skowronski with Washington County Johnson City EMS.

Skowronski said leaving someone in the car with temperatures even in the 60’s and 70’s can be deadly. 

He also said it is crucial you don’t forget your child in the backseat.

“Face it to where your rear facing mirror is able to see that car seat,” said Skowronski, “as well as something vital you need when you leave that car such as a cell phone, women’s purse, briefcase, anything you might be needing once you exit the car, place it right next to that car seat as a reminder.”

We also reached out to the Elizabethton Police Department on Wednesday.

They said leaving an unattended child in a hot car can carry a fine of up to $200 for a first offense and $500 for further violations. 

If you see a child or animal left unattended in a vehicle, you’re asked to call 911 immediately.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is launching a $1 million awareness campaign aimed at preventing child vehicular heatstroke deaths this summer. 

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