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First responders 'sweat it out' to promote hot car safety

HOUSTON – First responders teamed up to “sweat it out” in order to spread awareness about the dangers of leaving children and pets in cars.

The Cy-Fair Volunteer Fire Department and the Harris County Sheriff’s Office partnered on a Joint-Operation public event.

“Thirty-eight kids every year lose their life to being left in a hot car,” said Capt. David Padovan, with the CFVFD. “That’s 38 too many. And, if we can come out here and sweat and bring awareness -- come out here and interact with us. And if we can save a child, then that’s exactly what we’re here to do.”

Two firefighters and two deputies volunteered to sit in a hot SUV for 30 minutes to demonstrate the true intensity of heat and related medical emergencies that can occur when a child or pet is left for an extended period of time in a vehicle.

“These guys have been resting for a couple of days, they’ve been hydrating for a couple of days,” Padovan said. “This isn’t something that we just threw together. These guys have been preparing for this because of how hot it’s going to get in there.”

Padovan said temperatures can rise from upper 80s to 100s in a matter of minutes.

“That temperature in that car can easily reach 140 degrees,” Padovan said.

Sgt. Brian Brawner and Deputy Richie Singh with the HCSO along with Lt. Ravi Maini and Lt. Andrew Nix with CFVFD were the lucky four to endure the heat.

After 10 minutes, temperatures inside the van were recorded at 111 degrees.

“The sense of panic is probably the first thing,” Brawner said, through a radio device from inside the SUV.

Every couple minutes, the fire department would use those radios to communicate with the four inside the SUV, checking on how they are feeling and closely monitoring how they are responding.

“We’re not trying to hurt anybody,” Padvovan said. “At any point, if anyone doesn’t seem to be doing well, we will call it. We have emergency people on standby.”

Shortly after the crew got in, their phones were so hot that they shut off, temporarily stalling their attempts to use Facebook Live inside the SUV.

After about 30 minutes the temperature in the car reached about 130 degrees. The departments called the volunteers to come out. Each walked out dripping with sweat.

“It feels like air-conditioning,” said Maini while walking back out into the 88-degree weather. “I needed to hold onto something for a minute … You don’t realize how light you’re going to feel when you come out. You’re sweating so much. Your body is acclimating to something else. Then all of a sudden you get hit with a cold burst.”

“I felt every minute. We had full capabilities of getting out of the vehicle all on our own. Just knowing the sense of panic that we had sitting in there, it’s like, ‘What am I doing? I need to get out of here,’ and for a child that’s locked in a car seat -- they can’t do that,” Brawner said.

The first responders were taken to an ambulance where they had air-conditioning and were cooled down with lots of water. Their vital signs were also taken.

“It was a sigh of relief,” Singh said. “It was like an icebox in there. Within seconds our body temperature was cooling down. We had wet towels around our necks and wrists -- trying to get our core body temperature cooled down a little bit. It took a few minutes but after that we were great.”

“I can only imagine a child that’s strapped in, an animal that doesn’t understand what’s going on, does not know what that timeframe looks like, doesn’t know when you’re coming back -- that panic level would be much, much higher,” Nix said.

All four volunteers were in good spirits and were offered IV bags at request.

“Put your wallet, put your purse, put your cell phone in the backseat,” Padovan said. “We hold on to those all the time, something that’s very important that you need put it in the backseat to remind yourself to look back there.”