What to do if you accidentally lock your child in a car

Published 05/20/2019

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It had never happened to me before.

I accidentally locked my daughter in the car. Luckily, I had a spare key and I was able to get her out quickly and safely. But when I initially shut the door and realized she was locked in there on a warm morning, I panicked.

After the incident, I reached out to a friend who works for the Houston Fire Department. I wanted Jared’s advice for other parents, like me, who may accidentally lock their child in a car for the first time and don’t know what to do.

-He said the most important thing to do is not panic. You need to be able to calmly assess the situation.

-If it’s winter time (under 60 degrees), a child is fine for longer periods of time in the car as you wait for help to arrive. Call AAA or 911.

-Summertime is obviously when you have to worry, he said. If it’s hot outside (in the 80s, 90s and above), and the car is sitting in the sun then it will get hot...and fast. But remember - don’t panic. Call 911 right away because you don’t want to leave a child in a hot car for more than 5-10 minutes. If you’re in The Woodlands or a major city, there is plenty of time to get a fire engine to you for help. But ask the dispatcher for an ETA, just in case, Jared said.

-If you’re out in the country and away from a big city where it will be longer than 10 minutes for someone to get to you, break the window. Choose the window farthest from the child.

-There are also a variety of things that play into all of this that are situational - how hot is it out? Is the car in the shade or the sun? How is the child behaving? Remember, a screaming child is an okay child; it means he or she isn’t lethargic or dangerously overheated. If your child is limp, this is a sign that he or she is overheated.

-And, if your car happens to be on and your child is buckled into a seat, that child is fine until help arrives.

Jared reiterated that staying calm is the most important thing. First responders are trained to help you in those situations but you have to be calm to assess the situation and speak with the dispatcher so you can get help to you. As a parent, I was shaken to my core and my initial response was to panic. But don’t panic. Assess the situation based on Jared’s advice above and then call for help.

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