I’m writing this on the hottest day of the year across the U.S., a day in which news headlines warn “dangerous heat wave to scorch U.S.” and heat advisories have already been issued in 14 states. While you may be reading this after the immediate threat has passed, it certainly won’t be the last batch of hot weather we face this summer.

With hot weather comes a special kind of danger. Our cars can turn into death traps, with temperatures rising 20 degrees in as little as 10 minutes, according to the National Weather Service. And every summer, we read about children dying when they are trapped in hot cars—whether because the driver forgot the child was there or because the child got into an unlocked car without any adult knowing it happened. Within minutes, they can be in danger.

These deaths are tragic and heartbreaking. They’re also completely preventable.

As we enter the dog days of summer, it’s a good time to revisit some basic tips to avoid the dangers of hot cars. The National Weather Service calls this the “Beat the Heat, Check the Backseat!” campaign, and it’s something you can share via social media, bulletin boards and other community messaging opportunities.

• Never leave a child alone in a hot car, even briefly.

• Teach children that vehicles are never to be used as a play area.

• Remember: “Look before you leave”—always check the back and front seats before exiting the vehicle.

• Some car deaths have been the result of distracted parents driving to work and forgetting to drop children off at school or childcare. Ensure your child’s school or childcare provider has a policy in place to contact you if the child is absent.

More information on the dangers of heat can also be found at the National Weather Service Heat Safety webpage.

Fire Chief Sam DiGiovanna

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