We all know that it can be dangerous to leave children and pets alone in cars. (It can also be illegal, as we covered in detail in Is it Okay to Leave Kids Alone in Cars?) However, do you know what to do if you accidentally lock your child or pet in a car? Do you know what to do if you happen to see someone else’s child or pet locked in a car? We’ve found the answers so that everyone can be equipped with the knowledge that can save lives.
The Dangers of Being Locked in a Car
According to research by both NRMA and RACQ, the temperature inside a parked car can be up to 40ºC hotter than outside the car. This means that on a 30ºC day, the temperature inside a car can reach 70ºC. What is especially frightening and that very few people realise is that the temperature can rise from air-conditioned levels to over 40ºC in just seven minutes. Temperatures above 40ºC can lead to serious injury or death. The findings also showed that regardless of the colour of the car, sunshades, tinting, parking in the shade, and even having the windows down, temperatures can reach life-threatening levels in a matter of MINUTES. Young children are at an even higher risk in hot cars because their bodies heat up three to five times faster than those of adults (it is also illegal to leave kids in the car unattended as is reinforced in this article from the Queensland Police Service).
Pets are also at risk. According to the RSPCA, ‘You could lose your best mate in just 6 minutes’. You can find out more from the RSPCA here. Animal cruelty is ILLEGAL and can be penalised not just with fines but up to seven years imprisonment.
“Unfortunately heat-affected pets that have been left in cars are a common presentation for us at the Animal Emergency Service. Most of the time it’s accidental such as locking the doors but I’ve had situations where people have put the dog in the car as an easy out of the way place when a visitor comes and they then get forgotten about.
The first thing to do if your pet has been locked in the car is to remain calm and talk to them quietly and reassuringly once they have been rescued. Animals pick up on our emotions very easily and sensing that you are upset will only stress them further.
Start by moving them into the shade and running a hose over them to wet them through the coat to the skin. Don’t use ice water and don’t try to force them to drink the water. Even if these measures relieve the symptoms your pet will still need veterinary attention so put them in the car and place a wet towel over them , put the air conditioning on and get them to a vet immediately. The quicker your vet can intervene to provide supportive care the better the outcome is likely to be.”
Dr Alex Hynes BVSc (Hons) MVS MANZCVS (Emergency and Critical Care)
This video by RACQ is a great demonstration for why pets and people should never be left locked in cars. You will be amazed to see how quickly that temperature gauge rises.
Accidentally Locking Your Child or Pet in a Car
What you need to do
One of the biggest fears of parents is accidentally locking their child or children in the car. Unfortunately, this happens very often. If you find yourself in this situation, try to remain calm and do the following:
1. If your child is safe and not hot or in distress, call NRMA & RACQ on 13 1111. You DO NOT need to be a member for this service and it is FREE. They treat all such cases as a priority and will get to you as quickly as possible.
2. If your child is hot or distressed and in need of urgent help, call 000 immediately. Ask for the police, who will get to you as urgently as possible. They will get the child out and will call for an ambulance if necessary.
3. If it is already a life-and-death situation, call 000 and ask for an ambulance, break a window (preferably one furthest away from the child) and get the child out. If you need to perform emergency first aid, the operator will guide you with that.
If your pet is accidentally locked in a car, both NRMA and RQCQ will also take that matter very seriously and will come out immediately for free to rescue your pet.
Seeing Someone Else’s Child or Pet Locked in a Car
What you need to do
When it comes to seeing someone else’s child or pet locked in a car, many of us are unsure of how to act. Do we head off to try and find the owner of the vehicle? Do we leave a note if it’s an animal? Do we start smashing windows if it’s a child? Here are the best ways to respond in such situations.
1. If it is a child in the car, you can call RACQ or NRMA on 13 1111. You DO NOT have to be the owner of the car or a member in order to use this free service.
2. If it is an animal in the car, call the RSPCA animal hotline on 1300 ANIMAL (264 625).
3. If the child or animal is hot, in distress or in need of urgent help, call 000 immediately and ask for the police. The police will advise you on whether you need to break a window yourself or wait for them to take care of it. The police will also call an ambulance if necessary.
4. If there is a carpark attendant or security personnel at the venue where the car is parked, you can also ask them for assistance while you wait for help to arrive.
FREE Printable for Emergencies
To have all of these numbers at your fingertips in case of an emergency, you can download this free printable. Share it with friends and family to ensure they have this important information too!
The dangers are real but you can save lives.
For more information on leaving children in cars, see our article on Is it Okay to Leave Kids Alone in Cars? here.