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Whiteman heats up child safety: don't leave children in cars

WARRENSBURG, Mo. - Whiteman Air Force Base has zero tolerance for child abuse. Never leave a child alone in a vehicle, not even for a minute. A child left alone in a vehicle is in danger of dehydration, injury, abduction or death, according to the Children's Trust Fund. (No children were neglected or harmed while taking this photo)(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Cody H. Ramirez)

WARRENSBURG, Mo. - Whiteman Air Force Base has zero tolerance for child abuse. Never leave a child alone in a vehicle, not even for a minute. A child left alone in a vehicle is in danger of dehydration, injury, abduction or death, according to the Children's Trust Fund. (No children were neglected or harmed while taking this photo)(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Cody H. Ramirez)

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- "I'm just running in for a second," the parent says to their child, leaving her strapped in her car seat. "I'll be right back."

This is the mentality of many unsuspecting parents whose intentions are surely good, but these incidents can easily take a bad turn.

"The reasons to not leave your child in a car are endless," said Jeanine Johnson, 509th Medical Group family advocacy outreach manager and prevention social worker. "It's important for everyone to know why, so we can all help each other prevent injury or death."

It is illegal to leave any child under the age of 10 in a car alone, according to Whiteman Air Force Base Instruction 51-901. At 11 and 12 years-old the child can be left in a car but with the emergency brake in place and the keys removed.

Mrs. Johnson said most people don't leave their children in the car on purpose and they aren't bad people; it just happens.

"A lot of people say 'but I'm just running in for a minute,' and that might be exactly what they plan, but it's human to forget and unexpected situations can arise," she added. "One minute could easily turn into an hour and it only takes a couple of minutes for a car to heat up to dangerous temperatures."

Mrs. Johnson stressed that weather is the largest threat, but there is more to worry about.

"Many people get a false sense of security on base," she said. "Not that the base isn't safe, but children can be snatched no matter the area."

And although children are the main concern, Mrs. Johnson also said pets shouldn't be left in vehicles.

"If the weather is too hot for children then it is too dangerous for a pet," Mrs. Johnson said.

She also wanted to remind the public that cold weather can be just as deadly as hot, "Parents shouldn't leave their child in a car whether its summer or winter. No matter the season, the weather can be dangerous and children should never be neglected."

Those who neglect the law and leave their child in a car should expect consequences. According to Staff Sgt. Allison Maitland, 509th Security Forces Squadron police services staff NCO, military members who leave their child in a car on base will be apprehended under violation of article 134, child endangerment - civilians are cited with U.S. district court notive for child endangerment.

As the vehicle heats up turning into a solar microwave, a child could suffer extreme heat exhaustion and possibly death. No parent wants such a tragedy on their hand. Prevention starts now.

The following are suggestions from Children's Trust Fund, Missouri's Foundation for Child Abuse Prevention:

Never leave children unattended in or around an automobile

 Always put your keys in a safe and secure place

Keep vehicles locked at all times, even at home, and remind your friends and neighbors to do the same. Unlocked cars pose a risk to children who are naturally curious and often fearless

Teach your children the dangers of a car and let them know it is not a toy or playground

Establish a routine of checking the back seat every time you exit the car to ensure no one is left behind. Do not overlook sleeping infants.

Place your purse, briefcase or other personal items in the back seat with the child to give you an additional reason to check the back seat.

Try to plan ahead when you have errands. Run errands when your spouse, trusted neighbor or friend can watch your child.