In the wake of record-breaking heat waves that swept across the globe this month, the Department of Health and Environmental Control warns car owners that leaving children or pets in a locked car for as little as 10 minutes can have deadly consequences.
Ten minutes is all it takes for a car to heat up by 20 degrees, according to a blog post from DHEC, even if the air conditioning was running full blast before the car was turned off. Opening the windows will do little to stop the temperature inside the vehicle from climbing.
Because children's bodies heat up three to five times faster than an adult's body, children are especially susceptible to heatstroke and heat-related illnesses if left in a vehicle.
According to kidsandcars.org, the number of heat-related deaths from children locked in cars is on the rise. So far 18 deaths have been reported this year nationwide, with an average of 39 occurring per year.
Most of the reported deaths since 2016 occurred in Southern states, including South Carolina.
"I would say that, yes, we do receive those calls," said Lt. Jake Mahoney of Aiken Public Safety. "As far as the frequency, probably more with animals, especially now as people like to travel and carry out their daily activities with their pets."
DHEC also advises to never leave pets in locked vehicles in high temperatures, even if the pets have access to water in the vehicle.
If bystanders see children or pets locked in a car that is turned off, it is imperative they notify law enforcement at once.
"Immediately call 911," Mahoney said. "Temperatures can increase in vehicles alarming fast, and children are unable to care for themselves and could succumb to heat-related injuries rapidly."
Once the temperature in a vehicle reaches 104 degrees, a child's major body organs will begin to shut down. Death could occur at 107 degrees.
For more information, visit scdhec.gov.