HARTFORD – State Representative Brenda Kupchick (R-132) united with Fairfield Police Chief Gary MacNamara at a news conference on Wednesday afternoon to remind residents about Fairfield’s ongoing “Heat Kills: If you Love ‘em Don’t Leave ‘em” initiative. First started in 2015, the campaign aims to raise awareness of the dangers of leaving children & pets in hot cars.
Following a news conference held at the Fairfield Police Station, Rep. Kupchick, Chief MacNamara, Police Captain Don Smith, and Animal Control Officers Paul Miller and Joseph Felner went on their annual canvassing tour of the town to encourage more local businesses to install signs in their parking lots and stickers on their windows to remind parents and pet owners.
“This effort started due to frequent calls I received from constituents telling me about seeing dogs in parked cars with the windows up and their owner nowhere in sight. After a child died in Ridgefield because they were left in a hot car, I decided something had to be done,” said Rep. Kupchick. “Chief McNamara, Officer Miller, and I met and discussed starting an initiative that would help remind residents of the danger of leaving children and pets in cars and inform bystanders of what to do by listing the number to call police. Reports say many people who leave a child in a car forget their child is in the car or, when running errands, think it is okay to leave a pet in the car while they shop. The “Heat Kills” signs serve two purposes: as a reminder to parents entering the stores to remember their children and for people who find animals locked in hot cars to call the police. I thank the FPD for joining me today to reinforce the goals of the program.”
The FPD noted the success of the program since its inception, citing sharp decreases in the number of 9-1-1 calls they have received regarding pets being left in cars. They wanted to reinforce its goals as the days continue to get hotter this summer.
Rep. Kupchick also shared the legislature’s passage of a transportation bill that extends “Good Samaritan” law protections to people who break into hot cars to save animals. Originally, this legal protection only existed in the case of entering a car to save a child. Now, bystanders should feel empowered to act as necessary in the case of animals, as well, if the animal appears to be in urgent distress.
“The first step should always be to call 9-1-1 and report the situation, but, now, in emergency situations, a bystander is not liable for damages to a vehicle if they break into it in order to save a child or an animal inside,” said Rep. Kupchick. “This is vitally important to saving lives because it empowers concerned bystanders to act.”
Local participating businesses in the “Heat Kills” campaign to date include all municipal parking lots, The Pantry, Shop Rite, Stop & Shop, T.J. Maxx, Dunkin Donuts, Marshalls and several other small business. Additionally, signs are posted at train station parking lots.
According to experts, children have died in cars with the temperature as low as 73 degrees. Basically, the car becomes a greenhouse. At 70 degrees on a sunny day, after 30 minutes, the temperature inside a car is 104 degrees. After 60 minutes, it can reach 113 degrees.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data findings showed, “when temperatures outside range from 80-100 degrees, the temperature inside a car parked in direct sunlight can quickly climb to between 130-172 degrees.” In terms of heat rising over time, the American Academy of Pediatrics study concluded the difference in interior temperature between a car with the windors fully closed and a car with the windows cracked down a few inches is negligible. “In both cases, a car’s interior temperature can rise approximately 40 degrees within one hour, even if the exterior temperature is only 72 degrees,” the report said.
If the outside temperature is 70 degrees, in 10 minutes the temperature inside a car will be 89 degrees, within 30 minutes, it will be 104 degrees. With temperatures in the mid-80’s, within 10 minutes the temp inside a car will be 104 degrees, and in 30 minutes – 119 degrees. Heatstroke can lead to permanent health impairment for both children and pets.
Leaving a child in a hot car can lead to a Risk of Injury charge (anyone under 12 years of age cannot lawfully be left unattended in a public place), leaving a dog in a hot car can lead to a Cruelty to Animals charge.
Residents are asked to call Fairfield Police at 203.254.4800 to report a child or pet left in a vehicle. Individuals and businesses who want to obtain signage can call Fairfield Animal Control at 211 Richard White Way at 203.254.4857. The cost of the signs has been covered by donations which support the program and the town will assist, if requested, in mounting and setting the sign at private businesses free of charge.