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Tennessee Launches Effort to Prevent Hot Car Deaths

It's a new state-wide initiative to remind parents and caregivers to check their cars so that children are not left in the sweltering heat of a locked vehicle.

Between 2005 and 2013, 13 Tennessee children died from heat-related causes, with nine of those deaths occurring in vehicles.

"A vehicle's internal temperature can rise quickly to a dangerous level, so it's important to never leave a child alone in a car," said Tennessee Department of Heath (TDH) Commissioner John J. Dreyzehner, MD, MPH. "Any of us can be distracted, so we need to take some simple memory steps like putting something we need when we leave our cars, such as a briefcase or purse, beside our children to prevent a distraction from becoming a tragedy."

It takes only ten minutes for a car to reach deadly hot temperatures on an 80 degree day, and even less time for heat stroke to begin. Heat stroke can occur when a person's temperature exceeds 104 degrees F and his or her ability to handle heat is overwhelmed.

The first symptoms include dizziness, disorientation and sluggishness, followed by loss of consciousness, hallucinations and rapid heartbeat. When the body's core temperature reaches 107 degrees F, internal organs often stop functioning.

The Tennessee Department of Health reminds residents and visitors to A.C.T. to ensure children are not left in harm's way:

A Avoid Heatstroke

  • NEVER leave an infant or child alone in a vehicle, even if a window is cracked or if you're parked in the shade.
  • Remember to "Look Before You Lock" - Look in the back seat every time you exit the car.

C Create Reminders

  • Place an item like your work bag, wallet or purse in the back seat next to the car seat, so you'll always check the back seat before you leave the car.
  • Tape a reminder note to your dashboard such as: "Where's Baby? Look Before You Lock".
  • Have the day care call you if your child doesn't arrive.

T Take Action

  • If you see a child alone in a car, call 911.
  • Know the warning signs of heat stroke, which include red, hot and moist or dry skin; no sweating; a strong rapid pulse or a slow weak pulse; nausea; confusion or acting strangely.
  • If a child is in distress due to heat, get him or her out as quickly as possible and cool off the child.

A new state law protects people who break into vehicles to rescue endangered children by not making them pay for damages.