An incident involving a life-like “reborn” doll recently in Keene, New Hampshire may remind the public about the dangers of leaving babies or pets unattended in locked vehicles during hot summer months. Every year in the United States, tragic serious injuries and fatalities occur because drivers fail to realize the high temperatures that may occur within an enclosed automobile.
Recently, an officer with the Keene Police Department responded to concerns that someone had left an infant in a car seat unattended in a locked vehicle. When he arrived and investigated the parked van, he noticed a seemingly unresponsive child strapped into a car seat in the back. The unattended child appeared motionless, often a sign of distress. The officer broke into the vehicle to rescue the baby. Only at the point of performing CPR did he realize the emergency response has actually occurred, not on behalf of a human, but due to the presence of a very realistic doll.
Designers specially create so-called “reborn” dolls to possess natural features. These life-like babies mimic the fine hair and delicate skin tones of real babies. Modern film and television production companies sometimes use these life-like reproductions to substitute for children in entertainment productions, since babies and toddlers do not always make ideal actors and actresses. The officer responding to the apparent emergency situation in Keene would not have been able to distinguish a well-made reborn doll from an actual child when looking through a car window.
During a press conference later, Police Lieutenant Jason Short noted to reporters that under the same circumstances, he would behave in exactly the same way again. In responding to the 911 call, his primary concern remained saving lives. He expressed the hope that anyone taking a reborn doll along with them in public would transport the doll indoors after exiting a vehicle in order to prevent false alarms from occurring in the future.
The owner of the reborn doll, Carolynne Sieffert of Vermont, will reportedly obtain compensation for any damage to her vehicle. She owns a collection of reborn dolls, all very lifelike in appearance. She explained to reporters that she keeps the dolls and travels with them sometimes as a way of coping with a personal loss.
The false 911 alarm in Keene may offer at least one silver lining. Widely publicized, the incident drew public and media attention to very real dangers associated with the interiors of parked, enclosed vehicles during searingly hot summer months.
During warmer periods of the year, the temperatures within an unattended automobile may rise to surprisingly high (even life-threatening) levels. A locked vehicle with the windows raised may serve to amplify the heat. It creates a dangerous environment for any living creature unable to lower the windows or physically exit the vehicle independently. Pets and young children remain at particular risk of inadvertent harm in this situation. Hopefully, by raising public awareness about this issue, the false alarm in Keene will perhaps prevent some future tragedies.