Summer heat is intensified inside a hot car. That’s why local and state public safety officials are warning the public to never leave children or pets inside a hot car.
Bargersville Community Fire Department hosted a hot car demonstration on Tuesday, which was livestreamed on Facebook to show the real-time effects of being in a hot car. Mike Pruitt, deputy fire chief, brought in Indiana State Police Sgt. John Perrine and Andy Fisher, major with Johnson County Sheriff’s Office, for the demonstration.
During the demonstration, a Bargersville fire vehicle was left running for a period of time with the air conditioning on. Pruitt placed a baby doll in the back seat along with his work bag.
They placed a thermometer by the baby doll to monitor the temperature and two more thermometers around the car; with one on the dashboard and the other on the middle console of the vehicle.
Perrine and Pruitt have put on the demonstration for five years but believe Tuesday was the hottest day they’ve had for the demonstration. The high was around 90 degrees, and with 55% humidity, it felt even hotter.
Pruitt and Fisher entered the vehicle when the internal temperature was 80 degrees. After one minute, the vehicle the temperatures increased slightly but on the dashboard the temperature read over 120 degrees.
After three minutes, Pruitt and Fisher started to sweat and said it became a little difficult to breathe.
After being in the vehicle for 15 minutes, Pruitt and Fisher were drenched in sweat. The vehicle temperature was over 100 degrees and the dashboard temperature was 140 degrees.
“Breathing in the warm car is difficult in itself but I knew that I was able to get out of it so my nerves were calm. But I can’t imagine being a dog or a kid. Because what happens is you start breathing in or inhaling and exhaling a lot faster, so you’re breathing in that warm air which is going to warm your body up,” Fisher said.
For Fisher’s first time sitting in the hot car he felt “very uncomfortable” when he realized that his breathing became a little difficult after sitting in the car for about three minutes.
“I was trying to keep my breathing slow down a little bit to not try to heat myself up … my whole undershirt and everything is just soaked and that was from being in there for about 15 minutes,” Fisher said.
Because a child’s core temperature can increase four times faster than an adult’s, Pruitt said children are particularly at-risk inside a hot car.
“A child core temperatures are different compared to adults, even after five or 10 minutes in the hot car you may not think that’s long but we were in there for 15 minutes and the temperature went over 100 degrees and we’re adults, so if you have a small child, that’s going to be a bigger issue internally for a small child,” Pruitt said.
Every year there are accidents where someone will accidentally forget a child or pet in the backseat of a car. This is usually due to distractions or changes of routine, Pruitt said.
The first responders have seen these accidents happen regularly and that’s why they do this annual demonstration.
“Unfortunately, this isn’t an uncommon occurrence. We don’t have dozens every year here in Indiana, but we do see our share of these emergencies. They don’t all result in death — some of them are medical emergencies — but one is too many and that’s our goal for today is to eliminate any chance,” Perrine said. “We want people to be talking about it and thinking about it. And each year we put ourselves through these demonstrations just to bring awareness to the fact.”
In Indiana, the law allows people to force entry into a vehicle if a child or a pet is in distress in a hot car.
“You want to be sure the car’s not running and you want to make sure that the windows are rolled up. If you see that you can force entry to that car by breaking the window or other means to rescue that pet or child,” Perrine said. “But the law also requires that you stay there on scene and you contact police immediately.”
During the demonstration, Pruitt left his work bag beside the baby doll’s car seat. He did that to set an example. Pruitt said to leaving an important item like a purse, phone or wallet in the backseat near a child or pet is a good way to make sure they aren’t left behind.
Video of the hot car demonstration is posted on the “Johnny Law and Fire Mike” Facebook page.