With temperatures slated to hit triple digits this week, emergency responders are bracing for a spike in heatstroke calls. But would you know what to do if you saw a child or pet locked in a hot car?
Experts say a hot-car emergency requires a cool head, and smashing out a window yourself should be a lifesaving last resort. Potential injuries from broken glass can make a bad situation even worse. Here's what to do:
If the situation does NOT appear dire
For a trapped child:
- Call 9-1-1 immediately. Give the exact location of the parked vehicle, right down to the aisle number if you're in a parking lot. Include the car's make, model, and license plate number. Use your body or a piece of clothing to shield the child from direct sunlight.
- If you have someone with you, send him or her into nearby businesses and ask them to make an announcement to alert the car's owner.
- Stay at the car and on the line with the dispatcher until help arrives.
For a trapped animal (according to the Humane Society):
- Write down the car's make, model, and license plate number.
- Notify nearby businesses and ask them to make an announcement to alert the car's owner. If there's no response ...
- Call the non-emergency number of the local police or animal control and wait by the car until help arrives.
If you must rescue the child or pet immediately
- Focus on the corner of a side window just above the door lock (easier to break than the middle), and strike with something pointed like a tire iron.
- Choose the window farthest away from the child or pet.
- If possible, break just enough glass to unlock the door (reaching in with your arm wrapped in cloth to protect it from the broken glass), rather than completely shattering it.
- Remove the child or pet to a cooler location as you wait for help to arrive.
States differ in how they address citizen-rescuers faced with a hot-car dilemma. For example, Oregon just passed a Good Samaritan law that protects people from civil or criminal liability if they break a car window to rescue a child or pet – provided they've first called law enforcement and have a "good faith and reasonable belief" that danger is imminent. They also must remain on the scene until law enforcement arrives.
Washington law also allows window-breaking, but protection from prosecution extends only to law enforcement or animal control officers. In the case of an animal, you may want to take one quick step before you smash: Use your phone to video what's happening and show the animal's condition (heavy panting, unsteadiness, glazed eyes). Providing the context for your decision may make a difference to law enforcement officials if you become the one in the hot seat.
For more tips on keeping your family, home, and car safe during our heatwave, check out these suggestions, and don't forget to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.