Protecting Our Smallest Citizens: Preventing “Forgotten Child” Deaths and Falls from Windows

On Sunday, May 16, 2010, members of the Capitol Heights Volunteer Fire Department kicked off National EMS Week at the 1st Baptist Church of Capitol Heights. Pastor Harold Dugger welcomed us to his congregation and approximately 100 parishioners were in attendance. Children are our most vulnerable citizens and as adults we have a responsibility to protect them. The upcoming summer months pose some specific hazards to children which we wanted to address.

The first topic involved “Forgotten Child” deaths related to leaving children unattended in hot automobiles.

According to Safe Kids Maryland, between 1998 and 2009, 445 children have died from heat stroke when they were left unattended in vehicles that became too hot for them to survive. More than 50% of these deaths occurred when a caring adult became distracted and unintentionally left the child in the vehicle. Another 30%, involved children who gained access to an unlocked vehicle, became trapped inside and eventually overcome by the heat.

A child’s core body temperature rises at a rate 3 to 5 times faster than adults. At 104°, a child’s body systems will be overwhelmed by the heat. Death can occur at 107°. A recent study indicates that on 80° day, the average interior temperature of a vehicle will rise to approximately 99° within 10 minutes. At 20 minutes, the interior temperature can rise to 109°. With higher outside air temperatures, the interior temperatures rise even higher.

Safe Kids Maryland recommends that all adults transporting children take the following steps to help reduce or eliminate “Forgotten Child” deaths:

  • Never leave a child alone in car – even for a minute.
  • Set your cell phone or Blackberry to remind you to drop your child off at school or daycare.
  • Place your purse, cell phone, briefcase, etc. in the back seat near the child so that you see the child when you retrieve it.
  • Have a plan for your child’s daycare provider to call you if they do not show up.
  • Keep keys and entry key fobs out of children’s reach.
  • Keep your vehicle locked at all times.
  • Check your car first if your child is missing.
  • Call 911 if you see an unattended child in a car.

For more information visit www.safekids.org.

The second topic for discussion involved window safety. According to the Home Safety Council (HSC), injuries associated with windows caused about 110,000 emergency room visits each year. Child are especially vulnerable because they like to climb and are curious. Window screens are not strong enough to prevent a child from falling out a window. The HSC recommends that you install window guards to prevent your child from falling out the window. However, they must have a quick release mechanism inside to allow the window to be quickly opened in the event of a fire. It is also recommended that you move furniture way from windows to keep them from getting too close to an open window and more importantly, never leave your child alone near an open window.

Additional information regarding window safety can be found at www.homesafetycouncil.org.