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Altus officials work to prevent hot car deaths

(Source KSWO) (Source KSWO)

ALTUS, OK (KSWO) - On average, every nine days in America a child dies after being left alone inside of a hot car.

The number of hot car deaths has increased dramatically in the last couple of decades, and it's something one Altus official said is 100-percent avoidable.

That's why he along with other Altus Emergency Management officials are urging people to "look before you lock" in hopes of raising awareness of the issue of hot car deaths and preventing them.

As we start getting into hotter months and the temperatures begin to rise, City of Altus Emergency Manager Lloyd Colston said parents may not even realize they could be putting their child's life in danger by leaving their child in the car while they go on what they think is just a quick errand.

"There have been children left in cars that died when the air temperature was in the 60s but the car was over 100,” Colston said. “So, just having that realization to look before you lock is important so that you don't go through the tragedy of having a child die."

Colston said in most cases across the country, the parents unknowingly left the child in the car. He said those unfortunate mistakes should be used as learning moments for parents everywhere.

"I learn from mistakes of others so I won't make them myself,” Colston said. “That's certainly one reason why I am passionate about this story is there are 39 instances of this on average around the United States. It's avoidable. Make it not happen to you."

Colston said he is also passionate about this project because he has twice had to feel the pain of losing a child, though neither of them was hot car related.

"My first son was a cardiac patient and he died in open heart surgery and my second son just died. It could have been an overdose it could have been not. We don't know,” Colston said.

Colston doesn't want other parents to ever have to feel what he has, especially when it's preventable. So, he urges parents to take every possible step to ensure the safety of their child.

"Make sure the daycare is aware that if Johnny doesn't show up, they're going to call you to find out where Johnny is. Having that kind of network, same with the school, if you haven't called your child in sick at school, make sure the school is calling you to find out what's going on. Just talk to people in your network,” Colston said

Colston said obviously, kids come first, but the same rules apply when it comes to leaving a pet in a hot car. He said the temperature outside will be less than the temperature inside the car and just a few minutes in that heat could be deadly. 

Colston said you should also:

  • Put something you’ll need like your cell phone, handbag, employee ID or brief case in the back seat so that you have to open the back door to retrieve that item every time you park.

  • Keep a large stuffed animal in the child’s car seat. When the child is placed in the car seat, place the stuffed animal in the front passenger seat. It’s a visual reminder that the child is in the back seat.

  • Keep car keys and remote openers out of reach of children.

  • If you see a child alone in a vehicle, get involved. Call 911 immediately. If the child seems hot or sick, get them out of the vehicle as quickly as possible.

  • Be especially careful during busy times, schedule changes and periods of crisis or holidays. This is when many tragedies occur.

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