With the sun beating down Saturday afternoon, a pair of child advocates armed with fliers and a message stopped shoppers as they headed into a Kansas City Walgreens.
They approached young and old, people who have children and those who don’t.
“Did you know that eight children have already died this year from being left in a hot car?” asked Regina Weir, coordinator of the Safe Kids Metro KC program. The shopper stayed for a few minutes to hear more.
The goal Saturday was for Weir and colleague Anne Biswell to educate as many people as they could. Tell people how hot it can get in a locked car during the summertime. Give tips on what parents can do to not forget a child inside. And Weir and Biswell urged everyone they approached to tell friends.
As the two shared information, a giant thermometer measured not only the temperature outside but also inside a Honda CR-V. Just before 3 p.m. it showed 85.5 degrees outside and about 140 inside the Honda.
“Most people are very responsive,” Biswell said, standing in the shade of the store building. “One person said he had a close call. He didn’t want to talk about it.”
Last year, 30 children in the U.S. died after being left in hot cars. This month alone, three children have died across the country.
Parents become distracted, Weir said. Their routines may be altered one day and they forget to look in the back seat before they go into work or into the house.
The temperature inside a parked car can reach 125 degree in minutes, advocates say, even when the windows are cracked open. And when a child’s body temperature reaches 107 degrees, organs can start to shut down.
“We don’t want to have any more children die,” Weir said.
Safe Kids Metro KC, a program of the Mother & Child Health Coalition, used Saturday’s event to help kick off July’s heat stroke prevention month. Advocates wanted to start sharing information early in the summer before the days get hotter.
Susanna Rinehart, who stopped by Walgreens for a few things, has seen people run into a gas station and leave their kids in the car. She’s worried about carjackings. And in the summer, she worries about the heat inside a car.
“They say don’t leave a lighter or hair spray in a car because they can explode,” said Rinehart, who stopped outside the store to listen to Biswell. “What do you think it does to our bodies? … I think people mean well, they’re not trying to hurt their children, but the reality of it hasn’t set in.”
That’s why before Rinehart left the store parking lot, she said she’d spread the word to her neighbors and friends. As she walked away with a stack of fliers, the temperature inside the Honda had risen again.
It read 143 degrees.
Preventing heat stroke in children
▪ Don’t leave children in a car alone. Keep your car locked when you’re not in it, so kids don’t get in on their own. If a child is missing, check the car and trunk first.
▪ Put your belongings in the backseat near your child. By putting a purse or cell phone on the back floorboard, you will see the child when you get where you’re going.
▪ If you see a child alone in a car, call 911.