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'Look Before You Lock'

Campaign focuses on heatstroke deaths among children.

Firefighters Michael Brown, Anthony Watson, Brian Hricik, Thurston McClain and Andre Snead participate in the Aug. 17 launch of the Look Before You Lock campaign at George Washington Middle School.

Firefighters Michael Brown, Anthony Watson, Brian Hricik, Thurston McClain and Andre Snead participate in the Aug. 17 launch of the Look Before You Lock campaign at George Washington Middle School. Photo by Jeanne Theismann.

— U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius joined Campagna Center CEO Tammy Mann and Alexandria City officials Aug. 17 to launch the “Look Before You Lock” campaign at a press conference held at George Washington Middle School.

“This is an issue that is 100 percent preventable,” La Hood said as he addressed the crowd. “There have been 23 deaths so far this year due to heatstroke in children left unattended in vehicles. We can do better.”

Using one of the Campagna Center's Head Start locations as a backdrop to launch the nationwide campaign, LaHood and Sebelius urged childcare providers to be alert to the dangers of leaving children unattended in vehicles.

“How could you forget your own child? It's a question I ask myself every day.” — Reginald McKinnon, whose daughter Payton died after being left behind in an SUV.

“I'm a mother and a new grandmother,” Sebelius said. “And nothing is more frightening for us than the loss of a child. This campaign is about giving adults information and tools they can use to help make sure they don't forget about the children in their care.”

Also addressing the crowd was Florida resident Reginald McKinnon, whose 17-month old daughter Payton died from heatstroke after being left behind in the backseat of an SUV following a routine doctor's appointment.

“How could you forget your own child?” McKinnon said of the morning of March 8, 2010. “I ask myself that every day. No parent wants to be a member of this club and I will do whatever I can to prevent this from happening to another child.”

Following the press conference, the Alexandria Fire Department demonstrated a 911 call and rescue operation of a child locked inside a vehicle.

“We all have a role to play in this effort,” Sebelius said. “Parent, educator, child care provider — only working together can we ensure that no child is left behind in a parked vehicle ever again.”