According to the National Safety Council, on average 37 children die in hot cars every year in the United States.

As summer temperatures begin to soar in Green Country, Child Advocates of Northeast Oklahoma hopes to remind busy parents to always check the backseat of their car before parking.

According to the National Safety Council, on average 37 children die in hot cars every year in the United States. Incidents peak between Memorial Day and Labor Day, when between two and three kids die each week. In 2017, 42 children (about one and a quarter times above average) died in hot cars. To put things into perspective, only 35 people died in tornadoes that same year in the United States.

“Parents of infants and toddlers – especially those who work outside of the home - are often sleep deprived, stressed out, and distracted,” said Angela Henderson, Executive Director of Child Advocates of Northeast Oklahoma. “I want to encourage parents to create situational awareness around their vehicles – even when we’re positive that there are no children strapped inside. Those few seconds of certainty could save a life.”

Inside a parked vehicle with the windows rolled up, the temperature inside the vehicle can quickly soar to 20 degrees above the temperature outside the car in just 10 minutes. According to the Mayo Clinic, heatstroke occurs when a person’s core body temperature rises to 104 degrees. A core body temperature of 107 degrees could result in irreversible organ damage or even death. Young children are especially at risk, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, because their bodies heat up three to five times faster than an adult’s.

Safe Kids Worldwide produced the ACT Now Toolkit (https://www.safekids.org/take-action-prevent-heatstroke), which offers a number of tips to prevent heatstroke accidents:

Never leave a child alone in a vehicle – not even for a minute while you run inside. Keep your car doors locked when you are not in the car so that kids don’t gain access to the interior of the car without your knowledge. Create a reminder by putting something you need in the backseat of the car next to your child – a briefcase, a purse, a cell phone, or a left shoe. If you walk past a car and see a child alone inside, call 911. Set a calendar reminder on your phone to make sure you dropped your child off at daycare; develop a plan so that you’ll be alerted if your child is late or is a no-show.

“One of the easiest ways to ensure that your child is safe is to check the backseat of your car before you turn off your vehicle,” said Henderson. “Just like the routine of strapping on your seatbelt before starting the car, you can train yourself to check behind you before you turn off your car. Before you know it, a new habit is formed – one that could save a life.”

Henderson said today’s busy parents need to practice extreme self-care. “We live in a society that is increasingly speeding up and that looks down on parents if they can’t do it all,” she said. “As a society, we need to tune in to the young families around us and ask, ‘How can I help?’”

Henderson suggests members of churches, synagogues, clubs, community organizations or just neighbors look around for young families who need help.

“They may look like they’ve got it all together,” she said, “Offer to help. Babysit one afternoon or evening to give a tired parent some time off. Stop through a drive-thru and order dinner for a family or give them a gift certificate to a local restaurant. Offer to help around the house – give a harried mom a ‘gift certificate’ for one week’s worth of laundry to be washed and folded by you.”

“When we think about what it was like to have little ones running around the house, we remember that along with the obvious joys children bring us, sometimes being a parent is really, really hard,” she said.

Child Advocates of Northeast Oklahoma (CANO)

Child Advocates of Northeastern Oklahoma is a CASA agency that recruits, trains, and supports community volunteers to be the “voice” for abused and neglected children in the judicial system.

With offices in Claremore and Miami, the organization supports CASA volunteers in five counties in northeastern Oklahoma – Rogers, Mayes, Craig, Ottawa, and Delaware Counties. CANO also serves the courts of the Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma. CANO is a member agency of the United Way of Rogers and Mayes Counties and the Ottawa County United Way.