TRI-CITIES, Wash. – A few years ago, a Pasco family's child died after accidentally being left in a hot car. Local health and safety officials call it a harsh reality that no family should have to face.
"No length of time is okay to leave a child in a car," said Kathleen Clary-Cooke with Safe Kids Benton Franklin.
When this happens, she said most parents claim they're just running a quick errand and they'll be right back.
"But that's just a chance you never, ever want to take," Clary-Cooke said.
Most cars are going to heat up 20 degrees within 10 minutes and cars can reach up to 150 degrees inside after an hour.
"We've had kids in this country die in hot cars when the outside temperature was only 58 degrees," Clary-Cooke explained.
According to health experts, a child's body heats up three to five times faster than adults, putting them at a higher risk for death.
"Once a child's core temperature reaches 105, their internal organs are going to shut down and usually at 107 it's fatal," Clary-Cooke said.
Tri-Cities Animal Shelter Director Angela Zilar said pets are just as vulnerable in hot vehicles.
"I guess much like a child is locked in a car seat," Zilar said.
Animals can enter a heat stroke within minutes.
"If you as person would not want to sit in hot car with the windows cracked, why would you want your child or your pets to do so?" Zilar said.
If you ever see a child or animal in a locked car, officials said you need to act.
"Don't go looking for the parents, at this point it's an emergency," Clary-Cooke said. "A child's life could be in danger in a matter of minutes or seconds."
Call 911 and dispatchers will rush first responders to the scene. Dispatchers will direct you whether to break a window for the child.
However, animal law experts suggest the Good Samaritan rules don't necessarily apply for pets, so if you see a dog or a cat in a car, wait for Animal Control to arrive.
"We don't want people to get in trouble for doing the right thing, we on the other hand will," Zilar explained.
More than half of child vehicular heatstroke deaths are after a parent or guardian forgets a kid in a vehicle, according to the National Safety Council.
The hustle and bustle of everyday life, parents are stressed. Often, tragedies happen when schedules and routines are broken.
"It happens to the very best of parents, and this is tragedy that is totally preventable that will devastate a family and a community for life," Clary-Cooke said.
Healthy and safety experts suggest putting the right safety checks in place, so this never happens to you.
Safety experts suggest creating reminders for yourself to ensure a child or pet isn’t left in the back seat by putting a purse, your phone or even your left shoe on the floor boards in the back.
It will help create the habit of opening the back door even if a child isn’t inside.
The GPS app Waze also has child reminders and the app will remind you to check for a child when you reach your destination.
Safety experts also encourage parents to ask the sitter or daycare to always call if you are running 10-15 minutes late. This can help prevent an accident if say another parent forgot they were dropping their kid off and went to work on autopilot.
If a child is ever missing, safety experts said the first two places to check are any areas of water, like backyard pool, bond or nearby river and your cars.
Safety experts said you should always lock your car doors in your driveway, so kids cannot get inside while parents are away.