An 11-month-old child died over the weekend after being left in a hot car, and the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office is reminding community members to "look before you lock."
The situation could happen to anyone, including good, well-meaning parents, officials said.
"We live in a fast-paced world, and [people's] minds are on a dozen different things," Sheriff Jim Hammond said. "You've got to stop and take [time to think about it]."
Vehicular heat stroke occurs when children are left in a car where the outside temperature and direct sunlight heat up the inside of the vehicle to a temperature sufficient enough to cause death in a child or pet.
Between July 10 and 13, a marked HCSO patrol unit will be at the Hixson Walmart on Highway 153 displaying dual thermometers comparing the difference in temperature inside and outside the vehicle.
The effort is the second year of an initiative focused on eliminating unnecessary child and pet deaths by vehicular heat stroke.
On Monday, Hammond suggested that adults test it for themselves by sitting in a car that's off with the windows up to see how quickly it can become too hot.
—Signs of heat stroke in children include red, hot skin; signs of heat but no sweating; strong, rapid pulse or slow, weak pulse; nausea; confusion; and acting strangely.
—In 10 minutes, a car's temperature can rise more than 20 degrees.
—Even at an outside temperature of 60 degrees, the temperature inside a car can reach 110 degrees.
—A child dies when his/her body reaches 107 degrees.
As part of the program, the HCSO created yellow removable door decals that can be placed on the inside of the driver's door to remind parents to check on their children as they exit the car.
Area residents can get the decals from the HCSO West and East Patrol Annexes, located at 8395 Hickory Valley Road and 6233 Dayton Blvd., respectively.
"The public needs to be more cognizant," he said.
But there's a needed balance, he said. Members of the public don't need to overreact and break a car window just because an animal is in a car alone. They should be cautious and call 911 so that trained law enforcement members or EMS professionals can assess the situation.
They should also take note of how the person or animal seems to be doing. If they are disoriented or confused, it's important to act.
"If it turns out that you're on your own [in this situation], just make a judgment call," he said, adding that Tennessee law protects good Samaritans.
—Always dial 911 immediately if you see an unattended child in a car. Law enforcement and EMS professionals are trained to determine if a child is in trouble.
—Never leave a child unattended in a vehicle, even with the window slightly open or with the air conditioning running.
—Look in the backseat of your car every time you enter and exit the vehicle.
—Place a cellphone, purse, briefcase, gym bag or whatever is to be carried from the car on the floor in front of a child in a back seat. This triggers an adult's memory to see children in the back seat when they open the rear door and reach for their belongings.
—Teach children not to play in any vehicle.
—Lock all vehicle doors and trunk after everyone has exited the vehicle, especially at home.
—Always keep your vehicle keys out of the reach of children.
—Check vehicles and trunks first if a child goes missing.
— There are apps available for cellphones that help alert parents and caregivers they have left a child in a car. Click here for more information.