Fire department urges caution if you break into car to save child

New law aims to save children from hot cars

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - A new Alabama law could keep you from facing criminal charges if you break into a vehicle to save a child from the heat. The law comes as three children have died in hot cars in Alabama just in 2019, according to Kids and Cars.

The goal is to save children from the dangerous heat. However, there are specific guidelines outlined in the law people need to follow before entering a car.

It needs to be more than 99 degrees inside the car, the person needs to believe the child is in imminent danger and all the doors have to be locked. The bystander is also required to call 911 before breaking into the car.

A person can’t use more force than necessary to get in the car, and they need to stay with the child until law enforcement is there.

Montgomery Fire and Rescue Captain Jason Cupps said they do not advise people to break into the vehicle. He said it could cause more harm to the child.

“There’s a lot of things that goes into place like this when proper training is needed,” Cupps said. “We don’t want to advise anyone just to start breaking out windows in a vehicle.”

He said shards of glass could injure the child, an airbag could deploy and there could be more damage done to the car than necessary. Cupps suggested waiting for law enforcement unless the child is very lethargic or is not breathing.

Janette Fennell is the founder of Kids and Cars. The group supports laws like this and suggests people save a child if they are in danger after calling law enforcement.

“If you feel that child is in eminent danger after you call 911, a broken window or a cut or a scrape is nothing compared to either death or serious brain damage," Fennell said.

If you follow those steps, you would be immune from criminal liability for damage to the car.

And for public safety officials, they’re immune for criminal and civil liability.

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