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Extreme heat deadly for kids left in cars

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On an 80-degree day, the temperature inside a locked vehicle increases 19 degrees in just 10 minutes.

The numbers jump as the minutes pass — to 29 degrees in 20 minutes; and 43 degrees in an hour.  

The experience could prove fatal for any human subjected to such excessive extremes.

A child’s body temperature increases 3 to 5 times faster than that of an adult, and children exposed to extreme temperatures can suffer heatstroke, brain damage and death.

National statistics show that more than half of all reported exposure deaths involved children younger than 2.

Staggering summer heat extremes are the norm in Tennessee, so the Department of Human Services is reminding child-care providers licensed to transport children of the facts and to work to prevent fatalities.  

Failing to follow proper procedure can result in the loss of life for a child.  

The department has stringent transportation requirements and strong penalties for failure to follow proper procedure.

“We know child-care providers share our concern about the need for increased vigilance during the hot summer months to ensure children are not left in vehicles,” said DHS Commissioner Raquel Hatter.

“We want to heighten everyone’s awareness to ensure children are safe and able to enjoy the summer season,” she added. “The loss of even one life is unacceptable.”

As part of this increased vigilance, DHS licensing staff will be making extra visits to monitor child-care agencies.

Those not adhering to safety requirements will face a range of penalties. They range from being put on notice, probation, paying civil penalties to suspension — or even denial or revocation — of their license.   

Four children died in hot child-care vans between 1997 and 2003.

Those tragedies prompted changes in state child care licensing laws and transportation rules.

Annual violations have become less severe since DHS increased monitoring visits in 2003.

DHS licenses 3,123 child-care agencies statewide. More than 640 of those offer transportation.

Anyone witnessing a transportation violation or other child-care violation is urged to call the Child Care Complaint Hotline at 1-800-462-8261. The law requires that number to be posted on all licensed child-care buses.  

More information is available at tn.gov/humanserv/adfam/cc_main.html.