Good Question: What can you do if you find a child trapped in a hot car?
COLUMBIA, SC (WACH) - It only takes a moment of carelessness for a child to get locked in a hot car.
Unfortunately, it still happens. In the last week alone, there have been several incidents just in the Midlands.
In one of them, police say a 1-year-old boy in Sumter died after being left in a hot car. His mother is facing charges in the case.
So what can you do if you find a child, elderly person or animal left unattended in a car, and unable to get out of that situation?
We asked the Columbia Police Department's Traffic Unit to walk us through the process.
Cpl. Dan Weiler says the first thing anyone should do is call 911 immediately.
"We can have law enforcement, fire, EMS on scene rather quickly to deal with the situation," said Cpl. Weiler.
To do that, they will need very specific details. Very often people can find someone trapped in a car in the middle of a crowded parking lot.
"The key is to get key information that when you call 911, you can pass that information off to the dispatcher and they can relay that information to first responders," said Cpl. Weiler.
Very specific information like:
- Vehicle make and model
- Color of the vehicle
- License plate number
- Exact location of the vehicle, give an aisle number if you're in a parking lot
- If possible, stay on the line with a 911 dispatcher and stay with the vehicle in question to help guide first responders
Experts say every second counts when you're dealing with people who have been left in extreme heat.
Still, police say doing something like smashing out a window yourself should be a last resort.
"If it's where you think that child is in grave danger that you need to break the window, then so be it. There is a state law that allows citizens to do that," said Cpl. Weiler. "But, first and foremost we recommend that you call us and let us deal with that situation."
There are tools designed for things like breaking windows, however, most people likely don't carry them around with them.
Tool or not, if you're faced with that difficult decision, authorities say to focus your efforts on the corners of a car window, and choose the window that is the greatest distance away from the person inside to reduce the risk of injury from broken glass.
"Any call involving a child is obviously a call first responders never want to deal with," said Cpl. Weiler. "I don't think anyone intentionally means to leave a child in a vehicle, but, mistakes do happen because everyone's in such a rush today."
Officials suggest these steps to insure your child is not in the car when you exit:
- Always check your backseat before leaving your vehicle, whether there is someone there or not. It forms a habit
- Leave the driver's side door open while you take children out of the car to make sure they don't accidentally get locked in.
- Carry a stuffed animal in your passenger's seat as a reminder any time you have a child in the car with you