Time to Ramp Up Heatstroke Prevention Efforts

This article originated in the March/April 2016 issue of Safe Ride News.

Heatstroke CrisisSafe Kids provides a multitude of resources to assist local programs

On March 29, Safe Kids held its fifth annual Heatstroke Town Hall meeting. This meeting, which is meant to prepare partners for the Safe Kids’ awareness campaign launch on April 13, was recorded and is posted under Resources on the Safe Kids’ Online Speaker’s Bureau website.

The organizers were happy to report that last year there were fewer vehicular heatstroke deaths than in any year since tracking began in 1998. However, the 24 deaths were preventable, and it is very troubling that as early as mid-March 2016, two children had already succumbed to heat stroke—a very bad start to the year. [Update:  By July 1st, the number of 2016 deaths had risen to 16.]

Jan Null, the professor at San Jose State University who has been a leader in the effort for awareness of this issue by collecting and posting incident data, noted that 20 states now have unattended child laws, but the remaining 30 plus the District of Columbia need to follow suit.

Null also urged lawmakers to recognize that a car can heat up to fatal temperatures in as little as 10 minutes, so laws like Florida’s that allow parents to leave children in cars up to 15 minutes fail to adequately protect children. (Tragically, parents in Florida who might actually look to the law for guidance would wrongly conclude that up to 15 minutes is a safe window of time.)

To send the correct message to parents, Safe Kids has developed ACT:

  • Avoid heatstroke-related injury and death by never leaving children alone in a car.
  • Create reminders by securing something you will need, like a briefcase or cell phone, in the back seat with the children.
  • Take action if you see a problem situation.

This last point has been a particular success. Safe Kids notes that, as awareness has increased, more people have acted when they’ve seen children left in cars (considered “near misses”). The campaign has developed the Badge of Courage Award program, which includes a certificate that can be presented to honor anyone who took action to save a life (i.e., called 911, found the parents, etc.).

The April 13 campaign launch began with a press conference, and supporters are urged to repost/retweet the group’s Facebook and Twitter posts that are planned for the first Wednesday of each month.

Website Provides Turnkey Resources

Local coalitions and other supporters are urged to join Safe Kids’ Online Speaker’s Bureau, which is meant to enable a rapid response to media in communities where tragedies or near misses have occurred. A wide array of turnkey resources are also available for both members and nonmembers, such as social media guides, marketing materials, background materials, tip sheets, talking points, model task force guide, video, posters, print ads, and banners.


Jan Null’s website
NHTSA’s Where’s Baby? Look Before You Lock website.
Safe Kids’ Online Speaker’s Bureau