Have you ever left a child or pet in the car? This is a serious problem and even more so in hot weather. It is our responsibility to protect our children. Just recently in the news, a child died after being left in a car. It happens more often than we can even imagine. On average, every 10 days a child dies from heatstroke in a vehicle (http://www.safekids.org/heatstroke). These deaths are preventable, and everyone in the community, especially Head Start and child care providers, has a role to play in protecting our children.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services suggests these few simple things you can do:
- Make it part of your everyday routine to account for all children in your care. Set up backup systems to check and double check that no child is left in the vehicle. Never leave a child unattended in a vehicle—even if the windows are partially open or the engine is running with the air conditioning on. Vehicles heat up quickly; if the outside temperature is in the low 80s, the temperature inside a vehicle can reach deadly levels in only 10 minutes, even with a window rolled down 2 inches.
- Always make a habit of looking in the vehicle—front and back—before locking the door and walking away.
- Get in touch with designated family members if a child who is regularly in your care does not arrive as expected
- Create reminders to ensure that no child is accidentally left behind in the vehicle. Place an item that is needed at your final destination in the back of the vehicle next to the child or place a stuffed animal in the driver’s view to indicate that a child is in the car seat.
- Call 911 or your local emergency number immediately if you see a child alone in a hot vehicle. If he or she is in distress due to heat, get the child out as soon as possible and cool him or her down rapidly.
These deaths can be prevented, and in many cases, a simple communication plan between parents and child care/Head Start providers could save a child’s life.
Make a Plan!
In an arrival confirmation plan, parents notify providers when their children will be late or absent, and providers contact parents if a child does not arrive as expected.This kind of basic plan creates a safety net to help make sure that no child gets left in a car.
Take the Ray Ray’s Pledge to communicate about planned and unexpected absences here. Take the pledge and encourage the parents and providers in your life to do the same!
Remember: Look Before You Lock!
Lorene Bartos, Extension Educator, UNL Extension in Lancaster County