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Preventing child heat strokes: a matter of taking a second look

July 31is National Heat Stroke Prevention Day. An online petition calling for protecting children again hot car deaths is collecting support.
July 31is National Heat Stroke Prevention Day. An online petition calling for protecting children again hot car deaths is collecting support. KidsAndCars.org

It been a dangerous summer for Metro Atlanta’s children. Along with cases of child drowning deaths, missing teens located, and law enforcement searches for young missing children, there has been a troubling re-occurrence of children being left alone in hot cars by their parents. As we approach National Heat Stroke Prevention Day, it’s time for parents and caregivers to slow down, think, and take a second look.

On Tuesday, a Norcross mother left four children, believed to be between the ages of one-month and 4 years old inside her hot car while she shopped in Walmart. Gwinnett County police have arrested 31-year-old Arlete Markoudjo and charged her with reckless conduct. According to wsbtv.com, shoppers at the Jimmy Carter Boulevard Walmart noticed the children. The one- month old girl was described as covered in sweat and two other small children crying. Shopper John Dunkley called 911 and said, "I've never seen an infant sweat before, so I was like, this is not happening on my watch.”

Just one day earlier, a Forest Park father left his four month old daughter in his car at the Clayton County Courthouse. According to 11Alive.com, 37-year-old Courtney Lamont Kidd, was arrested at the Clayton County courthouse Monday afternoon and charged with felony child cruelty.

But the case shocking the nation is that of 22-month old Cooper Harris of Marietta, who died in a sweltering SUV June 18th after police say the father intentionally left the toddler in the park lot of his Cobb County office as he went into work. The toddler’s father, 33-year-old Justin Ross Harris, is faces murder and child cruelty charges.

According KidsAndCars.org in the last 20 years more than 670 children have died in hot vehicles, and as of July 15 of this year, 17 children have already died.

The national organization is calling on the federal government to help prevent these tragedies.

An online petition launched July 14th titled Prevent Child Heat Stroke Deaths is calling on the Obama Administration to authorize the Department of Transportation to prevent children from dying in hot vehicles by doing the following:

• Provide funding for research and development of innovative technology.

• Identify, evaluate and test new technology to accelerate implementation of the most feasible and effective solutions.

• Require installation of technology in all vehicles and/or child safety seats to prevent children from being left alone left alone in vehicles.

As of July 29 the petition had received more than 7,140 signatures with the goal of reaching 100,000 by August 13.

An earlier petition is also available for public signatures at http://wh.gov/l6nRv with a deadline of July 23.

In late May the state of Georgia launched its Look Again Campaign reminding parents and caregiver to take time to make sure children are not left behind in cars and transport vehicles.

As the much needed efforts to bring attention to the problem of children being left unattended in vehicles continue, there is a greater question that must be asked. As parents, education support staff and caregivers, should there really be a need to remind adults to take good care of children? Leaving a child in a hot car for any length of time should strike anyone as a very bad idea. It becomes imperative for adults to take the time to think about what they are doing and check one more time. Simple put, think and slow down.

Thursday, July 31 National Heat Stroke Prevention Day will be marked by KidsAndCars.org, other child safety advocacy groups, and the Nation Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Part of the focus will be on brand new parents. Volunteers will visit birthing centers in cities nationally to distribute Look Before You Lock safety education cards for new an expectant parents.

Participating agencies will also post social media messages throughout the day, asking people to share the posts on Facebook and retweet using #heatstroke.

KidsAndCars.org’s Look Before You Lock safety provides safety tip for all parents and caregivers. One tips is making it a habit of opening the back car door every time you reach your destination. Another tip is to put something you'll need on the floorboard in the back seat in front of your child’s car seat (cell phone, handbag, employee ID, briefcase, etc.). Another is to make arrangements with your daycare provider or babysitter to call you within 10 minutes if your child does not arrive as expected.

As agencies work to prevent heat stroke among children left in hot vehicles, on an individual bases, parents and caregivers should remember to value of a child's life above the hustle and bustle of the day.