You’re a good parent. Your family is your top priority. Your children are healthy, cared for, nurtured and loved.

You would never forget to drop your infant at daycare on the way to work. 

You would never allow your toddler to play in your vehicle parked in the driveway. 

A tragedy like the death of a child from being forgotten or trapped in the car couldn’t possibly happen to you. 

Think again, warns the McKinney Fire Department.

An average of 38 children in the United States die every year as a result of hyperthermia, commonly known as heat exhaustion or heat stroke, after being left unattended in a vehicle. Sadly, Texas consistently reports the highest numbers of these tragic incidents.     

That’s why the McKinney Fire Department has joined with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in an effort to reduce these deaths by reminding parents and caregivers about the dangers of heatstroke in young children.

“More than half of all vehicle-related heatstroke deaths in children are caused by a child accidentally being left in the car, and more than 30 percent are from a child getting into a hot car on their own,” said Stacie Durham, Public Information Officer for the McKinney Fire Department. “In an effort to prevent these needless tragedies, we want to urge all parents and caregivers to do three things: (1.) NEVER leave a child in a vehicle unattended; (2.) Make it a habit to look in the back seat EVERY time you exit the car; and (3.) ALWAYS lock the car and put the keys out of reach.

"And, if you ever see a child left alone in a hot vehicle, call 911 right away!” Durham added.

According to NHTSA, heatstroke is the leading cause of non-crash vehicle fatalities for children 14 and under. In fact, one child dies from heatstroke nearly every 10 days from being left in a hot vehicle.

Warning signs of heatstroke include red, hot, moist or dry skin; no sweating; a strong rapid pulse or a slow weak pulse; nausea; confusion; or strange behavior. If a child exhibits any of these signs after being in a hot vehicle, cool the child by spraying them with cool water or with a garden hose. Call 911 immediately.

“Children’s body temperatures can rise up to five times faster than that of an adult, and heatstroke can occur in temperatures as low as 57 degrees,” said fire department Emergency Medical Services Chief Kyle Easley. “On an 80-degree day, a car can reach deadly levels in just 10 minutes.”

NHTSA and the McKinney Fire Department would like to remind everyone of a key safety tips to prevent deadly heat-related accidents:

  • Never leave an infant or child unattended in a vehicle -- even if the windows are partly open or the engine is running and the air conditioning is on.
  • Don’t let children play in an unattended vehicle. Teach them a vehicle is not a play area.
  • Make a habit of looking in the vehicle -- front and back -- before locking the door and walking away.

Take steps to remember not to leave a child in a vehicle:

  • ­Write yourself a note and place it where you’ll see it when you leave the vehicle.
  • ­Place your purse, briefcase, or something else you’re sure to need in the back seat so you’ll be sure to see a child left in the vehicle.
  • ­Keep an object in the car seat, such as a stuffed toy. Once the child is buckled in, place the object where the driver will notice it when he or she leaves the vehicle.
  • Always lock vehicle doors and trunks and keep keys out of children’s reach. If a child is missing, check the vehicle first, including the trunk.
  • Ask your childcare provider to call you if your child doesn’t arrive on time.
  • If you see a child alone in a hot vehicle, call 911. If they are in distress due to heat, get them out as quickly as possible. Cool the child rapidly by spraying them with cool water or with a garden hose.

The McKinney Fire Department wants everyone to have a safe and enjoyable summer. If you have children or you transport, work with or provide care for children, make it a policy to always “look before you lock.” 

For additional information on summer safety and other important topics, visit www.mckinneyfire.org or call 972-547-2850.