When should you take action to rescue a child or pet trapped inside a hot car?

HOUSTON – On a hot summer day, your car can heat up to 20 degrees higher than the outside temperature in just 10 minutes. That is why you should never leave your child or pet unattended inside a vehicle. But what if you see a child in the back of a car? Should you jump in and immediately break the window?

Here is what emergency responders advise you to do:

  • “First off, I tell people right off the bat, we have law guidance-- first you gotta call the police. That’s why we’re here. Because when you’re talking about breaking a car window, there’s a specific way you need to do that,” Sgt. Woodard with the Texas Department of Public Safety said.
    • Breaking someone’s car window should never be your first course of action. Truthfully, it should be your last. The reason being: if you don’t know what you’re doing, glass could cut the child’s face or eyes.
    • It’s understandable to think at the moment, “What if help doesn’t get here on time?” Sgt. Woodard says, “We’re talking about a plethora of law enforcement agencies, especially in the Houston area. HPD, Harris County, DPS, constable agencies, you’ll have law enforcement attention immediately.”
  • If you need to take action, you must let authorities know what you are going to do before taking action. It is highly important that you give an accurate description of what you are seeing that is compelling you to take immediate action. Is the child profusely sweating? Is the child incoherent? All of these details must be communicated to emergency responders on the phone, that way you could also get proper guidance before taking matters into your own hands.
    • In order to properly break a car window, according to AAA Texas, you need a metal tool with a sharp end and should hit the window from a corner, which tends to be more vulnerable compared to the center, meaning it’s easier to break.
    • Also, make sure you look for the tempered glass window. Laminated glass will never break, no matter how hard you try. The window is usually labeled on one of the bottom corners.

If you are concerned about the possible negative outcome of smashing someone’s window to save a life, law enforcement will take into account all elements of that situation. For example, the temperature outside, did you call police? Did you tell police what you were about to do? What was the condition of the child or pet before you took action? The totality of the situation is going to dictate the action the citizen needs to take.


About the Author:

Traffic expert and What’s Driving Houston reporter, proud Latina, lover of animals, food and our beautiful planet.