Editorial: When a few minutes is a few too many

This has been a hot week, and it’s likely we will have more just like it before summer is done with us.

While it seems like it shouldn’t need saying, inevitably it does. Do not leave anyone, particularly children or elderly people or pets in a closed-up car. Not for five minutes. Not in the shade. Not anywhere, anytime. It doesn’t take much for tragedy to result.

So far this summer, police have not had any calls about children or elderly people being left like that. But there have been at least two incidents where people have left their dogs in their cars at supermarkets in town, according to Animal Control Officer Chris Muir. Fortunately, the dogs were OK when he assessed them. He made a point of mentioning, however, that there are signs posted at each supermarket — Caraluzzi’s, Stop & Shop, and Village Market — reminding people “heat kills.”

Children left in a parked car can suffer heat stroke and possibly die. Dogs pant to cool themselves. Left in a hot car they can overheat rapidly and die.

When it’s 70 degrees outside, it can be 120 degrees in a car; and when it’s 80 degrees, it can rise to 150 degrees or 160 degrees, essentially turning the car’s interior into an oven. This week has seen temperatures rise into the 90s, and it’s easy to see how quickly someone could die under those conditions.

Tragically, some cases of children killed or injured by being left in a hot car are truly accidents. Parents have a lot on their minds and it is easier than one might think to forget a sleeping child in the back seat. One way to prevent this is to get in the habit of checking the back seat every time you arrive at your destination. It’s called “look before you lock.” One way to do this is to put a cell phone, handbag, briefcase, or employee badge in the back seat with the child to ensure you always open the back door when you get where you are going.

Remember, it doesn’t have to feel hot outside to be dangerously hot inside a parked car. If you see a child or pet in a locked car on a warm or hot day, don’t hesitate to call 911.

The coronavirus pandemic has added an unfortunate twist to a heatwave. Because the library and town buildings are closed, and swimming at Merwin Meadows is discouraged, there are no public places to cool off.

That leaves staying indoors — which many of us have probably had enough of — to stay safe. It may be a worn-out cliché, but better safe than sorry.