What to Do If You Encounter a Child Trapped in a Hot Car

An average of 38 children die each year from heat-related deaths inside vehicles. It is always worth glancing at parked vehicles as you pass by for signs of children— or pets—that may be in distress. Should you encounter a child in distress, there are immediate remedies that you can take. These steps could potentially help save a life.

Call 911

If in the United States, the first thing you should do is to contact 911. Answer all questions from the emergency dispatcher about location and situation that you can. Ask for both medical and police personnel to be sent. The dispatcher can help you determine if it seems safe to wait for emergency personnel to arrive before you take matters fully into your own hands. It is also worth mentioning to the dispatcher or police to check nearby buildings and businesses for the parents.

Break the Window

In some situations, breaking the window immediately may be needed. If possible, get 911 dispatcher approval first. When breaking a window, make sure to select a window away from the child due to danger from broken glass. Use a heavy object, such as a tire iron, and strike above the door lock as many times as needed. Watching for jagged glass, unlock the vehicle, remove the child, and seek shade or shelter nearby. While most would consider saving a life to be worth any cost, be aware that legal action may result although such situations generally fall under Good Samaritan laws.

If You Can’t Break the Window

If you cannot break the window, or have been instructed not to do so by emergency services, you should always stay with the vehicle and child. Make sure to stay on the phone with the emergency dispatcher until that person instructs you to hang up after personnel arrive on scene. If possible, use a shirt, umbrella, or similar item to provide some shade to the child in distress. 

If you are with another person, have him or her check for signs of the parents nearby or fetch an additional witness such as a business employee. Should the parents return, inform them that emergency services are on the way, stay on the line with emergency dispatch, and follow the instructions. Note license plate numbers and vehicle make, model, and color. Do not provoke a confrontation.

You never know when you may be called upon to help someone in need. From CPR and basic first aid to child and babysitting safety, Young Hearts Educated can help you get certified.