After four children died in hot cars in just one week in three states and the District of Columbia, we reached out to Safe Kids Missoula and the Foundation for Community Health for advice on how to protect children in western Montana from a similar fate.

Kevi Berger is the Programs and Engagement Manager at the Foundation for Community Health, and she provided more tragic details about children who have perished in such tragic accidents.

“It's just devastating,” said Berger. “ Already this year there have been at least 18 children who have died in hot cars. And we know that over 1,000 have died in hot cars, and there are over 7,000 that have survived varying types of injuries, and that's according to kids in car safety and that since 1990.”

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Berger said she understands that the vast majority of hot car deaths are tragic accidents.

“We know that the majority of the hot car fatalities are unknowing,” she said. “It may be a parent that accidentally had left a child that they're typically a responsible parent or grandparent in a rush that morning and they forgot that their child was in the backseat, or maybe they don't typically take the kids to daycare. They're devastated, absolutely devastated. As a mother and grandmother, I can't even imagine what those kiddos have gone through, anything from the burn injuries to actually passing away.”

Berger said there are easy tips to remind any parent or grandparent that there is a child in the back seat.

“One of the ways that we talked about is to put something in the back seat,” she said. “So if your child is in the back seat and you typically are carrying a purse, put your purse in the back seat.  You can put something in the back seat that will make you get out and go, ‘Oh wait, I need my purse’. So you can lean into the back seat and get your purse. If you're a gentleman you can put something like a briefcase or your sports bag into the back seat.”

Berger provided advice as to what to do if you encounter a child or even a pet inside a closed vehicle.

“I have seen this several times, whether it's an animal or a child, I try to go over to see if the doors are unlocked,” she said. “I try to open that door and at least get some fresh air inside. I try to flag down maybe a passerby to go inside and ask ‘if a baby was left in the car, and here's the make and model of the car. Can you go in and let them know’? See if they can make an announcement. If it is an emergency we don't want anybody to get hurt by breaking a window or anything, so contact 9-1-1.”

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