DHS STEPS UP INSPECTIONS AS THE WEATHER HEATS UP TEMPERATURES SOAR IN CLOSED VEHICLES, INCREASING RISKS TO CHILDREN


NASHVILLE, Tenn.-Child care providers across Tennessee are being put on
notice-keep the children safe during the hot summer months, or face the
consequences. The Tennessee Department of Human Services’ child care
licensing division is conducting its annual summer transportation
crackdown. Hundreds of unannounced inspections and surveillances are
planned this summer to ensure child care agencies follow DHS licensing
rules and keep children safe as temperatures rise. Those caught
breaking the rules face a range of penalties, from being put on notice,
probation or even suspension of their transportation operation.

Children can suffer sunburn and dehydration after only a few moments
inside a closed vehicle during hot, summer weather. Temperatures inside
a closed vehicle climb quickly, rising to more than 107 degrees within
minutes. Children exposed to such extreme heat can suffer heatstroke,
brain damage and death. Four children died in hot child care vans in
Memphis between 1997 and 2003.

“Most child care agencies we regulate are working hard to ensure
their children stay safe during the hot summer months,” said DHS
Commissioner Gina Lodge. “Providers are trained on transportation
rules every six months. Our counselors are checking in on them this
summer to remind them of the detailed procedures that must be followed,
correct problems they discover and, ultimately, help prevent
tragedies.”

The risk of severe injury and even death, however, is not limited to
children transported by child-care providers. Extreme heat poses a
serious danger to all children. Nationwide last year, at least 35
children died when they were left in hot cars, trucks and SUVs-one of
these deaths occurred in Chattanooga. A 15-month old boy was left in
his father’s car in May 2007.

The Department of Human Services licenses 3,400 child care agencies
across the state, and more than 700 of these offer transportation. The
majority of transporting agencies are found in Memphis, with 268
providers offering the service. Knoxville has the second highest
concentration, with 64 providers transporting, followed by Nashville
with 60, Clarksville with 28, and Chattanooga with 25.

Last year, 80 providers were “put on notice” due to serious
violations, including failure to have proper signage on the bus and keep
proper maintenance records on the vehicle. Six agencies voluntarily
suspended their licenses to transport due to critical violations,
including failure to conduct proper walk-throughs, having exposed wires
in the vehicle and failure to keep transportation logs. Keeping
accurate logs helps ensure that providers know exactly where all the
children are at all times and that no children are left on the van or
bus.

If you witness transportation or other child-care violations, please
call the Child Care Complaint Hotline at
1-800-462-8261. This number is posted on every licensed child care
vehicle.

For more information on child care licensing, visit:
http://state.tn.us/humanserv/adfam/cc_main.htm. If you see a child
left unattended in any closed vehicle, please call your local police
department for emergency assistance.

For more information on staying safe in the summer heat, visit the
Tennessee Department of Health website at: http://www.state.tn.us/health

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