By Steve Schaeber, MACS Technical Editor
Several recent news stories have brought an important, although sometimes unfortunately overlooked issue to the attention of drivers nationwide. It has to do with how hot it can get inside your car or truck. When parked outside, especially in direct sunlight, interior temperatures can reach dangerous levels. On really hot days, temperatures can reach 150°F or more, but even on a cooler 65°F day, they can exceed 105°F in a closed vehicle.
While many news stories have focused on children being left in parked cars, it’s not just kids who are at risk. People also often leave their pets in parked cars, perhaps when running into a store, and it’s dogs in particular that are most often exposed to these high temperatures.
The tragic deaths of several K9 officers have recently come into the media spotlight. In fact, a quick Google search for K9 officer dies in hot car returned more than 13 instances on the first page alone. And it has happened all across the US, not just in the warmer southern states of Texas, Georgia and California. Reports have also come from northern states like Ohio and Wisconsin.
MACS has covered this issue in the past, most recently in the June 2015 issue of ACtion Magazine. Ward Atkinson, MACS senior technical advisor wrote about it in his feature article, “The heat is on: Don’t leave your chocolate candy, kids or pets in a parked car.” Ward has been studying vehicle interior climate control systems for more than 60 years, and during that time, he’s learned that sun load is a major factor in elevating vehicle interior temperatures.
“Heat stroke in an adult person can occur when body temperature exceeds 104°F. Children can reach dangerous body temperatures at a much faster rate. A person remaining in a parked vehicle, with windows opened or closed, without an operating A/C system can result in their potential exposure to dangerously high body temperatures.”
To address the situation at the state level, Allegheny County, PA Representative Dom Costa (D, Pittsburgh), introduced House Bill 1539 on September 11, 2015. If passed, this legislation would require the installation of heat alert systems in certain law enforcement vehicles in the Commonwealth, particularly those used for canine law enforcement.
Some law enforcement agencies in Pennsylvania have already installed these systems in their vehicles that transport K9 officers. The systems detect when vehicle interior temperatures exceed a certain set point and act to prevent the dog from overheating. They can open the windows, alert the handler, and some can even start the engine and turn on the A/C.