Summer is upon us once again and, despite a rainy spring that has brought some cool temperatures, things are rapidly heating up in Kilgore.
Kilgore Police Department has brought their “Hot Car” demonstration back to the Wal-Mart parking lot to serve as a visual reminder for parents and caretakers to make sure not to leave children or pets in hot cars.
“It’s basically a demonstration to show how hot that car gets in such a short time and how dangerous it is to leave a child or pet in there,” said KPD Evidence Officer Angela Burch.
Burch emphasized how quickly a car can go from cool temps when the air conditioning is running to dangerous, even deadly levels, when the car is sitting in a parking lot.
“It doesn’t take that long to get that hot,” Burch said.
In fact, at 3 p.m on Tuesday, a thermometer inside the car indicated a temperature of nearly 120 degrees. A stuffed dog and baby doll are placed in the car to drive home the message of the demonstration. Information about signs and treatments for heat exhaustion are in the car as well.
According to a 2018 article from LiveScience.com, a car parked directly in the sun can reach temperatures of 95 degrees or higher in as little as one hour. Individual components inside the car can get even hotter in the same period of time.
For example, researchers found the dashboard could get up to 157 degrees while the seats registered a temperature of 123 degrees, on average.
Information from the Mayo Clinic indicates heatstroke can occur in a person when their body reaches a temperature of 104 degrees and high humidity, very common here in East Texas, can make the situation worse.
Symptoms of heatstroke include headache, dizziness, confusion, red or dry skin, muscle cramps, nausea and vomiting and a lack of sweating despite extreme heat.
Infants may be more susceptible to heatstroke because they do not have the ability to sweat as much as older children and adults.
Heatstroke requires emergency medical treatment and can result in serious damage to internal organs. The longer it takes to get treatment, the more serious the damage can become, sometimes resulting in death.
KPD posted a public service announcement to their Facebook page Monday to spread the word about the dangers of hot cars and to ask the public to raise awareness about the issue.
“We’re asking the community to take part in it, to take pictures of how hot it’s getting and post it on Facebook,” Burch said.
“Even the best of parents or caregivers can unknowingly leave a sleeping baby in a car; and the end result can be injury or even death. On average, 37 children die each year from heatstroke. There are no good stats on animals. Countless other children are injured,” the post read.
According to NoHeatStroke.org, a project which tracks cases of injury or death resulting from hot car confinement, 805 children have died from Pediatric Vehicular Heatstroke since 1998, with ten deaths so far in 2019.
The KPD post urged parents and caretakers to use reminders to make sure they removed children and pets from their vehicle before exiting.
For instance, parents can place a purse in the backseat next to the child so they can see the child when they take out their purse to go shopping. Also, parents can place one of the child’s shoes in their lap to serve as a reminder.
Even though some parents may believe they could never forget their child in the back of a car, information from NoHeatStroke.org indicated 54 percent of vehicular heatstroke deaths between 1998 and 2018 -- 429 children -- were the result of children being forgotten and left in a car by caretakers.
Also, temperatures do not have to be extremely high to result in injury or death. Information from the No Heatstroke Project’s website indicated several Pediatric Vehicular Heatstroke incidents occurred when outside temperatures were between 70 and 80 degrees.
If someone discovers a child or pet in a locked car, it’s important to act quickly.
Officer Burch advised people in this situation to call emergency services immediately.
“If someone sees a child or a pet that is locked in a vehicle with no A/C running, they should contact 911 immediately for us to come out there and respond. Some people want to take things into their own hands but for liability reasons I would prefer them to call us and we’ll take that liability.”
While waiting for emergency services to arrive, a person afflicted with heatstroke can be moved to an air-conditioned or shady area, if possible. Any unnecessary clothing can be removed to keep them cool until help arrives.
The Hot Car will be outside Wal-Mart for the entire month of June. June is Safety Awareness Month and Wal-Mart will be doing different activities to raise awareness about safety issues throughout the month.