EL CENTRO — The Imperial County Health Department Emergency Medical Services joined the El Centro Fire Department Friday, May 24, to warn local residents about heatstroke. Parents and the community were informed about the dangers of leaving children unattended in vehicles during the hot summer months.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, heatstroke is the number one killer of children after car crashes. Local agencies join efforts each year in attempts to reduce these deaths by reminding parents and caregivers about the dangers of heat stroke.
Children’s body temperatures can rise up to five times faster than that of an adult, and heatstroke can occur in temperatures as low as 57 degrees. According to the Department of Meteorology and Climate Science at San Jose University, the total number of heatstroke deaths of children left in vehicles in the United States was 52, and so far in 2019, there have been seven deaths.
“As outside temperatures rise, the risks of children dying from being left alone inside a hot vehicle also rises,” said Chris Herring, EMS manager. “What is most tragic is that the majority of these deaths could have been prevented.” According to Harring, since 1998, 800 children have died due to their caregiver’s negligence.
“We’ve come up with methods on how to prevent tragedies like these,” said Herring. “For example, we think its effective for a mother or caregiver to leave their purses in the backseat so they have a reason to go back and remember they left their belongings and child in the back seat.”
Local law enforcement also participated in the event, reminding attendees of the dangers of leaving a child unattended for even a short period of time which can also result in heatstroke and death.
“If it’s 100 degrees outside, the temperature inside a vehicle is 20 degrees hotter,” said Officer Javier Amezcua. “It doesn’t matter if you’re leaving for a short period of time, it still becomes a danger to the person or pet inside a vehicle.”
“More than half of all vehicle-related heatstroke deaths in children are caused by a child accidentally being left in the car,” said EC Fire Department Battalion Chief Cedric Cesena, “and 29% are from a child getting into a car on their own without the parents knowing where they are. We want to get the word out to parents and caregivers, please look before you lock.”
“We’ve had about 19 calls in the local community, but fortunately there have been no deaths here,” said Amezcua.
Law enforcement encourages parents to download the Baby Reminder app or the Child Safe app and should know the warning signs of a person suffering from heatstroke: red, hot, and moist or dry skin, no sweating, a strong rapid pulse or a slow weak pulse, nausea, confusion, or unusual behavior. Residents are encouraged to call 911 or contact a local emergency number immediately.