Kansas removes lawsuit fear for rescuers of
children, pets trapped in hot cars
Beginning Sunday, good Samaritans in Kansas won’t have to think about getting sued for busting out the window of a hot car to save a child or pet trapped inside.
A new state law underscores that lives are more important than property when it comes to hot cars. Kansas joins 18 states — including Missouri — in giving rescuers legal immunity when they believe a person or a pet is in imminent danger. Two additional states have laws protecting pets only.
Amber Rollins, director of the non-profit Kids and Cars, on Monday demonstrated how a simple device can in seconds shatter the window of a locked vehicle, making rescue possible. Rollins used a disabled SUV at the 129 Auto Parts salvage lot in Spring Hill, Kansas.
A hand-held, spring-loaded device called “resqme” was the only tool she needed. It must be used on a side window because windshields and rear windows are made to not shatter. The device, which shoots a metal pin at the glass, should be applied to a corner of a side window. Applying it to the center of the window will not work.
The tool “resqme” can be ordered from kidsandcars.org for $7.50.
Regular nail punches available at hardware stores can also be used. In fact, Johnson County MedAct units each carry nail punches. A crowbar or stone or any other implement also can be used.
Some things to consider when busting out a window:
- First check to see if the vehicle is locked. Obviously, if it is not the window does not need to be broken.
- Call 9-1-1.
- Use appropriate force against a side window furthest away from the child or animal inside as the glass can fly.
- Get the victim to a cool place, remove clothing and apply water.
- Stay until emergency responders arrive.
In addition to Kids and Cars, the Kansas law was championed by Safe Kids Kansas and the Humane Society Legislative Fund of Kansas.
Although Kids and Cars is not aware of any case in which a rescuer was later sued for causing property damage to a vehicle, Rollins pointed to a New Mexico hot-car death in which two witnesses told police they saw the victim in distress but did not act.
Rollins keeps two resqmes handy. One is attached to the driver’s seat belt of her car so it will be immediately available to use in escaping if the vehicle becomes submerged in water. The resqme also has a blade to cut the seat belt if necessary.
Rollins keeps her other resqme on her key ring in case she notices a vulnerable child or pet in a hot car.
“A child’s body heats up three to five times faster than an adult,” said Cherie Sage, state coordinator for Safe Kids Kansas. “Their developing bodies are not as efficient at regulating their temperature. When a child’s internal temperature reaches 104 degrees major organs begin to shut down. And when that child’s temperature reaches 107 degrees that child can die.”
During Monday’s demonstration, the outside temperature was in the low 80s but the temperature inside the SUV was over 100 degrees. The air inside a vehicle can jump that much in a matter of minutes, even if the windows are partially open, because the windshield has a greenhouse effect.
There have been 18 child deaths in hot cars in the United States so far this year, about par with the average of 37 a year. But there are three other suspected cases this year awaiting autopsy results.
In most cases the parent did not know or simply forgot that their child was in the back seat.
Kids and Cars suggests that parents make a habit of putting their smart phones in the back seat so they will have to go there to retrieve them. Another idea is to keep a stuffed animal in the car seat and move it to the front seat when a child is strapped in to serve as a visible reminder for the parent.