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New Tenn. law allows action when child spotted in hot car

July 9th, 2014 11:00 pm by Nick Shepherd

New Tenn. law allows action when child spotted in hot car

MGN Online graphic.

It seems almost unimaginable. A parent in such a rush they forget their child in the car on a blazing summer day, where the child later dies. 

It happened in Georgia recently in a high profile case. It happened in Tennessee, nine times over the past eight years a child has died in a hot vehicle. Every summer, it seems, stories abound involving children or pets being left in hot cars.

"The inside of a vehicle can heat up and become deadly to a child within a very short time period, even with the windows cracked," said Leslie Earhart, Public Information officer for the Sullivan County Sheriff's Office. "For that reason, we ask that children not be left unattended in a vehicle for any length of time or for any reason."

Tennessee is taking a stand, empowering its citizens to prevent hot car deaths. Starting July 1 of this year, people who spot a child left in a hot car are allowed to break the windows without fear of being held liable for damages.

There are a few rules to the new law, such as calling the police, fire department or the 911 operator. A notice has to be placed on the windshield stating the person's contact information, the reason the entry was made, the location of the minor and that the authorities have been notified. The person has to remain with the child until law enforcement or other authorities arrive. 

The state is also launching an initiative to prevent hot car deaths. The Department of Health wants to implore people to A.C.T. — Avoid heatstroke, Create reminders and Take Action.

"Basically we worry with infants and children and the elderly in high heat conditions," said Medical Director for the Sullivan County Regional Health Department Dr. Andrew Stephen May, MD, FAAFP. "Prevention is the most important thing."

There are two types of heat-related illnesses. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke, with heat stroke being the most dangerous of the two. 

Heat exhaustion is when the core body temperature is maintained, but electrolytes are lost, usually resulting in dehydration, according to May. 

Heat stroke occurs when the body is no longer able to maintain its core temperature. Heat stroke can cause death and is most often what happens when a child is left in a hot car. 

Signs and symptoms of heat stroke:

*Extremely high body temperature,
* Red, hot and dry skin (no sweating)
*Rapid, strong pulse
*Throbbing headache

The department of health also wants to people to create reminders, such as a sticker beside the driver's door handle reminding them to look in the back seat or to place a briefcase or purse in the backseat to give a reason to check the backseat. 

And if you see a child in a hot car, take action. You're now protected under the law.

"We want to stress that if you see a child left inside a vehicle, you should call 911 immediately," Earhart said. "From there, dispatchers can help you determine the best course of action."

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