Child In Hot Car Not 'Distressed' Enough For Dispatch To Send Help

Temperatures near triple digits as mother calls for help

Did A 911 Dispatcher Deny Help To Child Locked In Hot Car?

A frantic mother called Tampa police Saturday afternoon after accidentally locking her child in her car, only to be told by dispatch that the police wouldn't come out unless the child was in distress.

Shana Dees had just finished strapping her 10-month-old son Jack into his car seat after shopping at a CVS pharmacy, according to WFTS. She didn't realize Jack was still playing with her car keys, and in the time it took her to close the door and turn around, he locked her out of the car without a cell phone.

Dees borrowed a passerby's phone and immediately called 911 for help. She didn't get the response she was expecting.

Dispatch told Dees police wouldn't come out unless the child was in distress. Temperatures that day reached 95 degrees that day in the Tampa area. Interiors of cars can quickly become dangerous under such conditions. The National Weather Service found in as little as two minutes a car can reach unsafe temperatures on a hot day and children's bodies absorb heat three to five times faster than adults. On average, 38 children die each year after being left in hot cars.

Luckily, a passing off-duty police officer saw Dees eight minutes later and made a 911 call of his own. The dispatcher immediately sent someone out to help, but by then the car was really heating up. In that short amount of time, Jack was in danger of suffering hyperthermia.

"I was just sitting there watching him get hotter and turn redder." Dees told WFTS.

Another patron of the pharmacy smashed the car window with a wrench, allowing Dees to rescue her son before police arrived. Police told WFTS they will open an investigation into how the call was handled.

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