Have you ever been so hot that you can’t stand it? So unbelievably hot that you could swear there is a heat haze around you? Well, if you’ve been living anywhere in the U.S. this summer, then you know how this feels.
So far, 2018 has been one heck of a hot summer in the United States. Temperatures in some parts of the country have reached in excess of a hundred degrees and we’re not even mentioning some of the states in the south. It was on one such day, in Waterford, Michigan, that our story takes place.
Michigan-born Lacey Guyton had gone to visit her grandmother in Waterford to show off her 2-month-old daughter, Raina. It had been a wonderful visit and one that had been a long time coming. Lacey brought little Raina out to the car and strapped the now drowsy infant into the car seat. She set the diaper bag down and shut the car door.
As Lacey walked around the side of the car, she heard a sound that sent her heart straight into her stomach. It was the echoing click of all four doors locking at once. She reached down into her purse, only to realize that the keys themselves were still inside the diaper bag sitting in the backseat.
Found a Fob
Panicked, she rooted around inside her purse to see if she had brought her spare with her. Something plastic grazed her fingers and she turned it over in her hand, clenching it tightly as she brought it up from the depths of the bag. It was her key fob, which she then tried to use to unlock the doors. It was no use, she needed the car keys.
Smash the Window
The 25-year-old mother grew more fearful and desperate with each passing moment. She looked around the driveway for anything that might be of use to her and grabbed a chunk of nearby asphalt. Using all her strength, she threw the asphalt at the car window. It barely made a dent.
Meanwhile, Lacey’s grandmother frantically called 911. She explained to the dispatcher that there was a 2-month-old baby trapped in a car, but was met with a rather unhelpful reply. The dispatcher explained to her that the department doesn’t unlock vehicles or break windows. As an alternative, they suggested the grandmother call a towing company.
Raina began to wail uncontrollably. Despite this, Lacey continued to attempt to break-in to the car manually. In the meantime, her grandma tried her best to explain the severity of the situation to a rather obstinate 911 dispatcher.
No Time for Tow
Grandma tried to explain that she didn’t have time to call a tow truck, that this was a real emergency and that the temperature was already at 85 degrees that day. She ran out to Lacey and attempted to calm the crying child while Lacey took a turn at calling 911.
Lacey pleaded with the new 911 operator to have the fire department come to smash the window. Out of breath and becoming emotional, she must have sounded very worried indeed. The new 911 dispatcher turned out to be just as stubborn as the previous one, however, and explained that the fire department “doesn’t come out for that.”
Lacey handed the phone back over to grandmother, who had been unable to calm the crying infant. She picked up a window breaker she’d found and tried cracking the window, but it wouldn’t budge in the slightest. The longer they waited to get her out of the car, the more dangerous Raina’s situation became.
No More Crying
Suddenly, Raina stopped crying and her eyes became heavy. It was very possible that she had exhausted herself and was just falling asleep. Of course, it was also possible that she could have been succumbing to heat exhaustion. Since 911 wasn’t going to be of any help to her, Lacey had to get her baby out on her own.
Lacey had one more chance to try and open the window. This time, instead of trying for the side windows, she ran to the back windshield and raised the window breaker. The first hit cracked the glass, the second shattered it entirely. Lacey climbed into the car and pulled Raina free from her seat.
Thankfully, after 15 minutes of fear and uncertainty, Raina was completely safe. Their ordeal was at an end. Lacey decided to take Raina to the doctor to be sure, but the baby was fine. Soon enough though, news of the situation and the obstinate, unhelpful nature of the 911 dispatcher’s comments, soon hit the Internet.
Lacey admits that it’s an easy thing to lock one’s keys in the car. It just so happened that it was one of the hottest days of the year and that the car had her baby inside it. “Obviously the police department had a policy where they don’t unlock cars if the keys are in there but this time is different … there’s a baby,” she explained.
Waterford Police Chief Scott Underwood spoke out about the whole situation in a public apology. “While it is true we do not normally respond when people lock their keys in their vehicle and we do offer to contact a wrecker service for them, this is a completely different situation,” he explained.
Chief Underwood added that “We should have responded in this case and we should respond in any similar case when there is a concern for the health, safety or welfare of any person, especially a young child. We acknowledge our mistake and are doing everything we can to make sure we do not repeat it. We will learn from this and correct the problem.”
A Mother’s Take
For her part, Lacey has made it clear that she doesn’t blame either the police department or fire department of Waterford. As she sees it, “they didn’t even have the chance to come” and that in-and-of-itself absolves them of most of the responsibility. Though she admits that the procedure itself should be changed.
As far as Lacey is concerned, that day was the worst day of her life. “It’s the most helpless feeling … the dispatchers, their job is essentially one of the most important,” she explained. “They are like the lifeline between someone potentially dying and people that are going to go save them. So it’s not something to take lightly.”
As for the dispatcher who “helped” Lacey during the ordeal, they have not been back to work since the incident occurred. The Waterford Police Department has indicated that they will be addressing the situation with the dispatcher directly via either disciplinary processes, remedial training, or both.
At least 35 children have died from being inside hot cars in the United States this year alone. Yet even taking into account the idea that “accidents happen,” this number should be below double digits.
Lacey is hopeful that news of her story will spread and make people more careful going forward. She hopes parents will be more mindful of their surroundings and that police protocol in these situations will be evaluated less by procedure and more by mitigating circumstances. That is to say, on a case-by-case basis.