ARKANSAS (KFSM) -- It may seem unimaginable to forget a child inside a vehicle on a hot day. However, it happens dozens of times each year and can happen to any family.
On average, national data shows every year in the U.S. at least 37 children die in hot vehicles.
Cpl. Anthony Rice with the Fort Smith Police Department said it only takes 10 minutes inside of a vehicle to rise 20 degrees. It doesn't necessarily matter if the vehicle is in the shade. "Even if the temperature outside is 60 degrees, the inside of a car could easily be 110 degrees," said Cpl. Rice.
This can quickly elevate a child's core body temperature, leading to heat stroke, which is deadly.
There are several ways to prevent these tragedies. "Put something in the backseat with your child that you have to get before you get out of the car," said Cpl. Rice.
He also recommends looking in the backseat before you get out, and putting car keys in places that are out of your child's reach so they can't lock themselves in.
However, there may be a time you could see someone else's child in distress in a hot vehicle. Police said if the child is struggling, use any means possible to get them out. Even if you don't have medical training, there are ways to treat someone who has been left in a hot vehicle.
"Most of us carry bottled water with us all the time," said Fort Smith EMS Director Allen Young. "I would wet the patient down and immediately start that cooling process," Young said.
These steps can ultimately save a child's life.
Thousands of animals also die yearly from being left in hot vehicles. Officials said if you see an animal in a hot vehicle, call police immediately.
If the animal's life appears to be in imminent danger, find a witness who will back up your assessment, and then do what you can to get the animal out as you wait for authorities to arrive.