DCF warns of hot car dangers

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – With temperatures soaring into the mid-90s Wednesday and Thursday and the feels-like temperatures into the 100s, the Florida Department of Children and Families is boosting its efforts with a new campaign, telling people the dangers of leaving children in hot cars.

They're also warning people to be on the lookout for children left in those sweltering temperatures.

According to DCF, more than 600 children have died from being left in a hot car in the United States over the last 15 years. Sixty-six of those deaths happened in Florida.

There have been several cases in northeast Florida in recent weeks involving kids in hot cars. In mid-July, Jessica Burroughs was charged with a misdemeanor after investigators said she left her 2-year-old in a car when it was 90 degrees outside in Orange Park.

Burroughs did not want to speak at her home Wednesday.

Police also said Betty Brunson left five children in a car in 92-degree heat two weeks ago while getting a job application at a Northside business. Her relationship with the children is unclear.

No one answered the door at Brunson's home Wednesday.

"This is a risk. It's something that's putting children at risk, and it needs to stop," said DCF spokesman John Harrell.

Fifteen cases of a child being left in a hot car have been reported to DCF this year. Harrell said several of those cases happened in July. And with hot weather continuing in the near future, he's reminding people about the law. Harrell said it's illegal for a parent to leave a child younger than 6 in a car.

"Even if you've got a child who's over the age of 6, if they may be stuck in a car having to wait for somebody, that's potential neglect," Harrell said.

He said don't assume someone has already called 911 if you see a child in a hot car. He said parents can get detained or distracted, and that can have deadly consequences.

Harrell has tips to remind people that they have a child in the backseat.

"Have some belongings in the backseat," he said. "If they know they're going to need to get their briefcase out of the car when they go, if they know they need to get some food out of the car when they leave the car, put that in the back seat."

Harrell also suggests people put a note or something in the front seat of their car to remind them.

A man in Pensacola has a patent pending on a device he says can help alert parents. Every time the car's ignition is turned off, something called "Guardian Cam" takes a picture of the backseat. When a child is detected in the back seat, it triggers an alarm and won't stop until the child is removed.

DCF has several public service announcements and a website set up to alert people of the dangers.