MORRIS COUNTY — Morris County health officials are joining the state campaign this summer to get the word out that leaving unattended children in cars is a bad idea at any time, but can be a health danger to kids in the hot summer months.

You may think your errand will just take just a few minutes, but running an errand while leaving your child – or your pet — alone in a car often stretches longer, putting your child at risk of heatstroke and even death.

Striving to educate parents that the risk far exceeds any convenience, the New Jersey Department of Children and Families (DCF) has partnered with statewide business organizations to raise awareness about the dangers of leaving children alone in vehicles.

DCF has been distributing window stickers to retail stores, supermarkets, financial institutions, insurance agents, state-licensed child care centers, and more featuring a simple but important message: Never leave your child unattended in a car. Not even for a minute.

“A hot car can become like a hot oven in just a matter of minutes on summer days,’’ said Carlos Perez, Jr, Health Officer for the Morris County Office of Health Management. “The rule of thumb should be never to leave your children or pets in a hot car, even for what you think will be a minute or two. It’s a bad idea.’’

“We urge Morris County residents to heed this common sense message and avoid potential problems,’’ said Morris County Freeholder Doug Cabana, who is the county governing board’s liaison on health issues. “Maybe they’re grabbing a gallon of milk or using the ATM and think it won’t take much time, but it’s never okay to leave a child alone in a car,” said DCF Commissioner Allison Blake.

The Department of Children and Families has produced an online video alerting parents and caregivers to the danger.

Last year, according to DCF, 31 children nationwide died from heatstroke because they were left unattended in vehicles. Since 1998, 12 children in New Jersey have died from vehicle-related heatstroke. Vehicle interiors hit unbearable temperatures quickly. A relatively cool day at 60 degrees outside could heat a car to 110 degrees inside. Parents and guardians can take easy steps to avoid leaving children unattended in cars. Adults can leave a stuffed animal in the child’s unoccupied car seat. Once caregivers place the child in the car seat, they can move the stuffed animal to the front seat. The stuffed animal will act as a visual reminder to remove the child from the vehicle upon reaching the destination. Other steps adults can take to keep young children safe include:
• Removing kids from the vehicle before unloading groceries or other items;
• Looking inside at the vehicle’s front and back seats before locking the door and walking away;
• Not allowing children to play in or around an unattended vehicle;
• Always lock your car and secure the keys so children can’t get to them;
• Installing a trunk release mechanism to avoid kids getting trapped inside the trunk; and
• Calling 911 immediately if you see a child unattended in a vehicle.

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