TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Florida's hot summer sun can be deadly. Already this year the state has received five reports of children who died after they were left behind in cars.
It only takes a few minutes for the inside of a car to heat up to dangerous levels and pose a deadly threat to children and pets.
Children's bodies are more susceptible to the heat. They heat up five times faster than an adult and can suffer fatal heat stroke in minutes.
Now the Florida Department of Children and Families is launching a campaign called "Look Before You Lock" that includes a new public service announcement.
The campaign offers some common-sense reminders urging adults to use a backup system to remind them about little ones in the car.
Department of Children and Families spokesman Whitney Ray says you can develop habits to remind you to look in the back seat before locking up.
"Look behind you and make sure you haven't forgotten anything. Another thing to help you remember that is to always put your briefcase, purse, lunch pail, anything in the back seat so you have a reason to turn around and look behind you," Ray said.
A change in routine is one of the main reasons why people forget that a child is in the back seat of a vehicle.
Another tip to consider: if your plans change and someone else takes your child to summer camp, have that person call you after the drop to make sure everyone is OK.
It's that time of year when anyone can make a lifesaving difference for a child in the heat.
"If you see a car with a child locked inside of it in a parking lot, no matter where you are, call 911, call the police, stay at that car, make sure that the child isn't there and in danger," said Ray.
Under Florida law, a person can face felony charges if a child is left unattended in a car and is seriously injured or killed.
Nationwide, more than 600 children have died in hot cars over the past 20 years, according to the group Kids and Cars.
KidsAndCars.org offers these suggestions:
• Never leave children alone in or around cars; not even for a minute.
• Get in the habit of always opening the back door of your vehicle every time you reach your destination to make sure no child has been left behind.
• Keep a large stuffed animal in the child's car seat when it's not occupied. When the child is placed in the seat, put the stuffed animal in the front passenger seat. It's a visual reminder that anytime the stuffed animal is up front you know the child is in the back seat in a child safety seat.
• Make arrangements with your child's day care center or babysitter that you will always call if your child will not be there on a particular day as scheduled.
• Keep vehicles locked at all times; even in the garage or driveway.
• Keys and/or remote openers should never be left within reach of children.
• When a child is missing, check the vehicle and or car trunk immediately.
• Be especially careful about keeping children safe in and around cars during busy times, schedule changes and periods of crisis or holidays.
• Use your debit or credit card to pay for gas at the pump.