Kent firefighters are urging parents to think twice when it comes to leaving their young children alone in locked or unlocked cars. The call comes as summer arrives in the county and as Child Safety Week in the UK gets underway (1-7 June 2015).
Since the beginning of the year, Kent Fire and Rescue Service (KFRS) has attended over fifty incidents where children have been locked in their parents car and KFRS has been called out to rescue them.
One such incident happened in Kent this week (Tuesday 26th May 2015) in Dover, where a two year-old child was locked in a car at a supermarket carpark. Dover firefighters were met with a distressed mother who had accidently locked her keys in the car with her child on the back seat. Crew Manager, Adrian Hawkins explained what happened: "Although the child was getting hot, he remained calm so it gave us time to get into the car without having to cause damage."
Adrian added: "On this occasion there was a positive outcome, and although we had a distressed but relieved mother and a slightly hot and sweaty child, we did managed to open the car in time. It may not always be that way."
As part of Kent Fire and Rescue Service’s ongoing investment programme, every fire engine across the county is about to be equipped with a special tool to enable firefighters to open car doors with minimal damage to the vehicle.
Director of Operations at KFRS, Sean Bone-Knell said: "We attend at least two incidents a week where children have been left in unattended cars and our firefighters use their initiative to rescue the child as quickly as possible, which in some cases can result in damage to the vehicle. Our new kit will help avoid damage and be less stressful for those involved. However we would always recommend that parents avoid leaving their children alone in cars."
A survey carried out last year revealed one in ten parents admitted that they had left a child alone inside a parked vehicle, despite the risks of heatstroke.
Alexa Kersting-Woods, Road Safety and Safeguarding Manager at KFRS said: "We would always urge parents with young children to consider issues such as:
What if something were to happen to you while they were in the shop which would leave them vulnerable.
They could wriggle free and open a door into oncoming traffic or even release the handbrake.
More severe risks could be your car being struck by another vehicle
Or on very warm days, it doesn’t take long before a youngster might over heat, especially with babies as they cannot regulate their temperature like adults.
She added: "We realise that life is busy and can be stressful, but the bottom line is parents really need to ask themselves: is that pint of milk worth the risk if you need to leave your child alone?"