Tallahassee, Fla. – First Lady Casey DeSantis, Department of Children and Families’ (DCF) Secretary Chad Poppell, and the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles’ (FLHSMV) Executive Director Terry Rhodes are urging all Floridians and visitors to make safety a top priority during the summer months. Summer is especially dangerous with two-thirds of drownings nationwide occurring each year between May and August, and a national average of 38 child vehicular heatstroke fatalities per year.
“Our great state is known for its beautiful summer weather and abundance of natural waters – a place for families to make lasting memories,” said First Lady Casey DeSantis. “As a mother of two active young children, I know how critical it is to take the necessary safety precautions during the summer months. Active supervision, swim lessons, and safe guards for your home and vehicle are proven steps to ensure the safety of our children.”
Florida leads the nation in drownings and near-drownings – a statistic that can be changed with education and prevention. Multiple layers of protection are necessary to prevent these tragedies:
- Active supervision – Never take your eyes off children who are in or around bodies of water. Always designate a “water watcher” at family gatherings, pool parties, and other water-related activities.
- Barriers – Barriers such as fences, pool alarms, and safety covers add an extra layer of protection. The more barriers, the more likely a tragedy can be prevented.
- Swim Lessons – All family members, regardless of age, should learn to swim. Swimming lessons range from infants to adults.
- Know how to respond – Even if you are not a parent, it’s important to learn CPR and have a cell phone nearby to call emergency responders if a drowning occurs.
“In just a split second your whole world can be turned upside down from something that is completely preventable,” said Brittany Howard, founder of Kacen’s Cause. “Drowning is quick, quiet, and can happen to even the best of parents. Most children who drown, like my son Kacen, were last seen inside, far away from the pool. As a mom who endures the pain of my son’s death every day, I can’t emphasize enough the importance of multiple layers of protection to prevent tragedy.”
Additionally, owners who have short-term vacation homes with pools or homes near a body of water are urged to not only add extra safeguards to their rental homes, but to include pool and water safety messaging at all vacation rentals.
“Summer in Florida is a great opportunity for children and families to spend quality time together enjoying all our beautiful state has to offer,” said DCF Secretary Chad Poppell. “I encourage all parents and caretakers to stay proactive in their safety efforts, especially around water, during these months to ensure all families in Florida have a safe and memorable summer.”
Leaving children unattended in vehicles, especially during Florida’s hottest months, can be fatal. Temperatures inside of a vehicle can reach 125 degrees in just minutes. Cracking a window does little to keep the vehicle cool. Never leave a child alone in a car and always remember to Look Before You Lock.
“The most dangerous mistake a parent or caregiver can make is to assume that leaving or forgetting a child alone in a vehicle could never happen to them,” said FLHSMV Executive Director Terry L. Rhodes. “Practice vehicle safety. A parked car can look like a playground for kids, so it is important to lock your vehicle and keep the keys out of reach. Every time you leave your vehicle, check for kids and pets.”
In over 55 percent of cases where a child was left in a vehicle, the caregiver responsible for the child was unaware they had left them in the vehicle. A change in routine, lack of sleep, stress, and simple distractions are all things that parents, new and old, experience and are just some of the reasons that children have been left unknowingly in a vehicle.
There are many simple, yet effective ways parents and caregivers can prevent vehicular heatstroke fatalities:
- Look before you lock – Always check in the backseat and around the car before locking and walking away from the vehicle.
- Keep a reminder in the back seat – A phone, laptop, purse, or even a shoe placed in the backseat can enforce the habit of checking the backseat before exiting the vehicle.
- Always lock the vehicle – Keep vehicles locked at all times and ask your neighbors, visitors, and family members to do the same. Never leave car keys where a child can reach them.
- Communicate with your child care provider – Request that your child care provider call you or your identified emergency contact immediately if the child hasn’t arrived as scheduled.
If you see a child alone in a vehicle, get involved and take action. Immediately call 9-1-1. If the child is showing signs of distress, remove the child from the car as quickly as possible. In accordance with Florida Statute 768.139, also known as the “Motor Vehicle Good Samaritan Law,” a person who enters a motor vehicle, by force or otherwise, for the purpose of removing a vulnerable person or domestic animal is immune from civil liability for damage to the motor vehicle in most cases if acting in good faith to help someone in imminent danger.