Hypothermia: Potential Risk to Children This Winter

With the start of winter just around the corner, safety thoughts turn to keeping warm and driving safely in wintry conditions. However, as temperatures drop, the growing concern of parents leaving children in locked cars – normally associated with the summer heat – becomes just as serious an issue in the freezing winter months. Pop-A-Lock, the country’s largest security company, wants parents and caregivers to be informed about the extreme, and some times fatal, dangers of locking a child in a vehicle accidentally during frigid winter temperatures through our free PALSavesKids program that aims to prevent vehicular hypothermia.

The following are some facts about the severity of leaving children in locked vehicles and the quick onset of hypothermia:

  • Smaller body size and an inability to make enough body heat through shivering put children at higher risk of hypothermia and frostbite when exposed to cold conditions.
  • According to the Drive Steady Advocacy Group, children left in cold cars can suffer frostbite, or hypothermia, if their body temperature drops below 95 degrees F. That can happen all too quickly. Signs of hypothermia include shivering, confusion, memory loss, drowsiness, exhaustion, poor coordination, slurred speech, and numbness. Children may have trouble communicating these symptoms.
  • The child tied in their car seat and wearing restrictive clothing can actually be risk factors to worsen their chances of hypothermia.
  • During winter months, snow can block an automobile’s exhaust pipe, meaning parents who leave the car on for their children to stay warm are still putting them at risk for carbon monoxide poisoning.

Pop-A-Lock Jacksonville will focus on the dangers of leaving children in unattended vehicles and educate caregivers about the company’s PALSavesKids Program through interaction with customers, distributing educational materials to organizations supporting caregivers and children, and through social media. Aimed to support local police and firefighters, the program educates parents to first call 9-1-1 and then call 1-800-Pop-A-Lock.  The Pop-A-Lock technician nearest to the scene will leave all other priorities aside to arrive as soon as possible to unlock the child from the automobile.  This free community service program was originally launched in 1991 and since then has saved over 350,000 children.

To prevent vehicular hypothermia from occurring, the PALSavesKids program includes a call-to-action: “PALSaves 1-2-3.” The “1-2-3” reminds caregivers to “look before you lock” by: 1-stopping; 2-looking; and then 3-locking.

PALSavesKids’ mascot, PAL Super Dog, is a gentle reminder to caregivers to always look in the backseat before leaving the vehicle. Specific recommendations to prevent locking children in automobiles include:

  • Keep vehicles locked at all times; even in the garage or driveway and always set your parking brake.
  • Put something you’ll need like your cell phone, handbag, employee ID or briefcase, etc., on the floorboard in the back seat.
  • Keep a large stuffed animal or favorite toy in the child’s car seat when it’s not occupied. When the child is placed in the seat, put the stuffed animal or toy in the front passenger seat. It’s a visual reminder that anytime the stuffed animal or toy is up front you know the child is in the back seat in a child safety seat.

“We launched this program in 1991 to educate caregivers about the severe dangers of leaving children in unattended vehicles or mistakenly locking a child in an automobile,” said Don Marks, CEO of Pop-A-Lock.  “By using our expertise in the security industry, we are able to quickly and efficiently remove children from harm.  This program provides our franchise with the opportunity to thank the communities that have supported our business for so many years.”