Forty children in the U.S. have died of heatstroke in hot cars so far this year, according to NOAA. Four of those deaths were in North Texas. This summer, a child died in Garland, another in Ellis County, another in Providence Village and a fourth in Denton.
Tuesday, volunteers in McKinney spent hours trying to prevent another tragedy.
“We are looking generally for movement in the car, we are looking for cracked windows that might indicate someone might trying to give a little air,” said McKinney Citizens on Patrol Volunteer Becky Wahbeh.
Between May and the end of September, the volunteers devote hours to hot car checks. Tuesday, they planned to patrol from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Wahbeh and fellow volunteer Rick Scotzke walked busy shopping center parking lots, peering into every vehicle.
“We spend our own shoe leather in walking the parking lot versus tying up a highly trained officer,” explained Scotzke.
The goal is prevention. So far this year, McKinney counted eighty 911 calls involving children left in vehicles and just over 50 more for pets. Not all the calls involved heat and some were parents who’d accidentally locked a child in, but the numbers indicate how often it can happen.
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If volunteers find a person or animal in distress, they’re trained to radio dispatch then follow police instructions to get the child or pet out.
“A job well done is to absolutely not have not one pet or child left in a car,” said Wahbeh.
And as temperatures dip in September, Wahbeh says volunteers plan to keep working through the end of the month.
According to NOAA, about ten percent of vehicular heat stroke deaths in children happened when temperatures outside were below 80 degrees.
“Don’t let your guard down just because it’s going to be in the 90’s and it seems to be cooling off,” said Wahbeh.