As the summer heat rolls into Columbus, the annual stories about children trapped in hot cars pop up from seemingly every media news outlet. It’s a nightmare scenario, one that many people assume can never happen to them. Only neglectful parents accidentally lock their kids in their cars, right? Then it happens. A hectic day of work, taking care of a newborn, or managing day-to-day tasks in this fast-paced world temporarily distracts a normally super-attentive parent. A playful toddler discovers that it’s fun to push the lock button and watch her parent’s face go through a full range of emotions, from frustration to full-on panic. A curious child playing in the driveway decides to climb into an unlocked vehicle and accidentally locks himself inside.
These scenarios and others like them are quite common. Accidents happen. Here are a few tips on what you can do in this situation.
Do not panic, but act quickly.
It is important to keep a cool head, just like in any other emergency. Panic wastes time and can lead to more mistakes. Take a deep breath and push away negative thoughts. Assess the situation then act quickly. The inside of a car can heat up rapidly, even when outside temperatures seem comfortable. According to KidsandCars.org, the temperature inside a car can soar up to 125 degrees Fahrenheit and 80% of temperature increase occurs within the first ten minutes. KidsandCars.org further states that a child can overheat more quickly than an adult, 3-5 times faster. This puts a trapped child in serious risk of a heat stroke and unfortunately if they are left in the car long enough, death. These scary facts are used to stress the importance of urgency, but don’t let them overwhelm you completely. Take charge. Look around for any resources you have available to you in your vicinity while you call for help.
You should call 911 first. This suggestion seems like common sense, but some people hesitate to call 911. They worry that they’ll be judged and labeled a “bad parent.” Some fear that they will face some sort of criminal charges or investigation by Children Services, even if they immediately realized their mistake and acted quickly. It is important to remember that the child’s life is at risk. It is especially important to call 911 if it is a hot day or the child is in any kind of distress.
Call a locksmith.
The next step is to call a locksmith. Many people who have been in this situation reported that they were advised by the police to break the windows themselves. Unless a child is in immediate distress, it could be a while before anyone is able to respond to the scene. Even if someone is dispatched, police and firefighters very rarely carry car-opening tools. They are likely to break the window, just as you would have done. There are locksmiths who offer free car unlocks for trapped children. The benefit of having a skilled locksmith open the car is that the technician can work quickly without causing damage to the vehicle. At Buckeye Locksmith we provide such a service through our Free Child Rescue program, which is available 24/7 by calling (614) 623-7252. Customers who have a child trapped in their locked vehicle receive priority service. Not every locksmith offers this program and may even take advantage of the situation by charging outrageous fees. A little research of locksmith companies beforehand can take the burden off of your pocketbook. Keep the phone numbers with your emergency contacts and you can save yourself the price of a window replacement.
Cover your car.
While you are waiting for someone to show up, try to slow down the heating process by covering the windows.
Break a window.
If no one is able to get to you quickly enough, you just may have to break the window. The easiest way is to strike at the edges of a side window, but don’t try to break the tiny, triangular side windows. They are the most expensive on the car to replace. Anything with a sharp point or edge would work better than a blunt object as your tool for busting the window, such as a screwdriver or sharp edge of a rock. Please make sure that you choose a window that is as far away from your child as possible so they do not end up getting hurt from flying shards of glass.
Hug your child and let go of the guilt.
You’re human. Ignore the “bad parent” stigma and know that you are not alone in this.
For more information and tips, please visit www.kidsandcars.org.