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Central Basin Target Zero hosting vehicular heatstroke awareness event in Ephrata Friday and Saturday

by CASEY MCCARTHY
Staff Writer | July 31, 2020 12:13 AM

EPHRATA — Central Basin Target Zero will be hosting a two-day Vehicular Heatstroke Awareness and Prevention event at Walmart in Ephrata today and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The event will feature a car temperature display where people can see just how quickly a vehicle can heat up. Educational materials, activity books and other items will be available for anyone who wants to stop by as well.

The Central Basin Traffic Safety Task Force, or Central Basin Target Zero, focuses on bringing traffic safety education and enforcement to communities in Grant, Adams, Lincoln and Ferry counties. Target Zero Manager Alison Mitchell said the received funding for their new temperature display this spring, with a few sample events being held after receiving the equipment earlier in July.

Mitchell said this weekend’s event will be the first big major event for the organization since COVID-19 came into play. Today being National Heatstroke Prevention Day, she said, it was as good a time as any to get this event up and going.

“That’s what we rely heavily on for getting traffic safety messaging out, other than traffic stops and law enforcement, is the community events and distributing information,” Mitchell said. “A lot of that’s really been put on hold, so this is really one of our first low contact events in Grant County.”

While Mitchell said she believes the temperature display is more impactful in lower temperatures, she is curious as to how hot cars will get in the 100-plus-degree temperatures over the weekend.

“With our hot temperatures over here in Eastern Washington, it really is so similar to the temperatures in those Sun Belt states where we see the most of those vehicular heatstroke fatalities in young children,” Mitchell said.

At 104 degrees, she said, organs can begin shutting down in a person. At 107, death can occur. Mitchell said it doesn’t take long for the inside of a vehicle to become deadly on a warm day.

“Even that quick little 15-minute trip into the grocery store could turn absolutely deadly for either a child, or a pet, or even an elderly person for that matter,” Mitchell said. “Someone leaves Grandma in the car while they run in to grab a prescription, but it could get deadly hot really quick.”

Mitchell often gets questioned as to who would ever leave someone in the car under those conditions, but there are a lot of reasons that often come into play, she said.

“It can happen for so many reasons: maybe a change of schedule, Dad taking the kid instead of Mom and forgetting the baby was in the back seat,” Mitchell said.

Casey McCarthy can be reached via email at cmcarthy@columbiabasinherald.com.