Don’t leave children alone in hot cars: Incident prompts reminder to Prince Albert citizens

Jodi Schellenberg
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You wouldn’t put your children in an oven, so why would you leave them alone in a hot car?

Sgt. Brandon Mudry speaks at the weekly Prince Albert Police Service press conference on Monday.

On Sunday at 7:24 p.m., the Prince Albert Police Service responded to a complaint of a child left unattended in a vehicle in the 3200 block of Second Avenue West.

When they arrived on the scene, police located a child who was left unattended in a not running, locked vehicle that had the windows rolled up.

A witness informed the officers the child had been left unattended for approximately an hour, Sgt. Brandon Mudry said. At the time of the incident, the temperature was 24 C and the humidity was 62 per cent.

“The caregiver of the child was located inside a business and the vehicle was unlocked,” he said. “The child was found to be unharmed and was taken into protective custody by a partner agency to the Ministry of Social Services.”

A 35-year-old man is facing charges of lawfully abandoning a child under the age of 10 years thereby endangering their life, contrary to section 2.18 of the criminal code. He is set to appear in Prince Albert Provincial Court mid-July.

Situations such as this one do not happen very frequently in Prince Albert, Mudry said.

Although the ambulance was not called and the child was in good condition, Lyle Karasiuk, director of public affairs for Parkland Ambulance explained it is never a good idea to leave children or animals alone in a vehicle, especially on hot days.

According to the National Highway Traffic Administration in the United States, in the first 10 minutes of turning off your car and leaving all the doors and windows closed, the temperature in the car will increase by about 20 degrees.

“Within in an hour, the temperature in your car if left unattended, with your windows all rolled up in the hot sun, is going to be close to 78 C -- that is 180 F,” Karasiuk said. “Most of us will take a slow cooking roast in our oven at 200 degrees.

“If you want to bake your child or your dog, then leave them in their car. I mean that in the utmost respect for people. Literally that is what happens. You are baking them to death because that is how hot it gets in your car that quick.”

If a baby or toddler is left in the car, they are unable to roll down the windows or open the door, Karasiuk said. The same principal applies to pets.

“Basically they are at your mercy and the temperature is just rising quickly and steadily in that car,” he said. “The message is don’t. Leave them at home.”

It is a different situation when an adult is left alone in the car because they can open the windows or get out of the car on their own.  

If doesn’t matter if people are only planning to run a 10 minutes errand in a store, because often they will get side-tracked by another person or the lineups will be long.

Even when it is a cooler day outside, it is still important to take a child or pet out of the car.

“Your car still heats up,” Karasiuk said. “You have to take this into context. It may not heat up as fast but your car is a great big conductor of heat. It has a roof, it has this glass, it is not designed to let it all move around and it conducts heat so very well.”

Since infants and children have a greater surface area of skin and body mass to bone ratio than adults, combined with a poor thermal regulator, they do not conduct heat well, Karasiuk said.

“The average body … likes to stay within 37 C or 98.6 F,” he said. “It can tolerate a few degrees either way comfortably but when you get past 104 F in body temperature, then you really get into what we start calling heat stroke.”

People with heat stroke will exhibit signs such as unconsciousness, unresponsiveness, dizziness, not making sense, hard to wake up and their skin is hot and dry.

He compared sitting in a hot car to sitting in an oven.

“It can conceivably be that hot in your car that literally you could bake something in it so why would you do that to your child or your pet?” he asked. “It is just that whole bit of taking that time to think.”

Since Parkland Ambulance was not called to the incident on the weekend, he could not comment on the case but stressed how important it is to leave children and pets at home.

“There was that tragedy that happened last week, I believe it was in Georgia, where a 22-month-old child died,” Karasiuk said. “People need to understand that … it doesn’t take long before your car gets very hot very quick.”

Organizations: Prince Albert, Ministry of Social Services, National Highway Traffic Administration

Geographic location: United States, Georgia

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