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Carseat Check EventIt’s the day of the big carseat check event. The traffic cones are out, the updated recall lists have been printed and the LATCH Manuals are ready for action. But wait! Before those parents and caregivers begin to arrive – it’s time to gather your technicians for a quick briefing. This may be the most important 10 minutes of the whole event so don’t skip it. The pre-check meeting will outline expectations, procedures and protocols. In short, the pre-check meeting sets the tone for the entire event.

Each event coordinator has different expectations and pre-check meetings can vary widely. However, here is a general list of what I expect of the technicians who work events with me:

  • Always encourage best practice recommendations. If you don’t give the parents or caregivers the information then you’re essentially taking away their ability to make informed choices. However, don’t be judgmental and respect the parent or caregiver’s choices as long as they are legal.
  • Read the CR instruction manuals or look them up (online or DVD from Safety Belt Safe, USA)
  • Ask the parent “tell me what you know about this seat”. It’s a great place to start and they might teach you something you didn’t already know.
  • Look up every vehicle in the current edition of the LATCH Manual. It only takes 30 seconds and you’ll never know what you might find unless you actually look.
  • Teach parents how to secure the carseat with their vehicle seatbelt system even if the carseat is currently being installed with LATCH. It’s probably the only opportunity they’ll ever get to understand how the seatbelts in their vehicle lock for proper installation of a carseat.
  • Higher-weight harness seats – must check LATCH limits and note the info for parents.
  • Inform parents of the most appropriate “next step” for the child.
  • Don’t forget to ask “who else rides in this vehicle?”
  • Have parents do final install (or at least help).
  • Document EVERYTHING! Especially any “tough choices” made by parent/caregiver. Make sure you note in your paperwork that parent did final install, how the CR was secured in the vehicle and that education was provided.
  • No vehicle leaves without a second set of eyes (experienced) checking it over!

REMINDER – if the carseat or infant seat base has a lockoff device, you should use it for installations with seatbelt unless there is some compelling reason not to do so. Generally speaking, if using the lockoff – do NOT switch the retractor to locked (ALR) mode. Check carseat owner’s manual for details. Note: in these cases it is recommended that you show parents how the switchable retractor works anyway – in case their next carseat does not have a lockoff.

REMINDER – all vehicles made after 1996 have seatbelts that pre-crash lock in some way. Most lap/shoulder belts have switchable retractors but if you encounter a lap/shoulder belt in a vehicle made after 1996 that has an ELR retractor only (it doesn’t “switch”) then you probably have a locking latchplate. Locking latchplates aren’t always obvious and there are many different versions. Test the latchplate by buckling yourself in the seatbelt and pulling up on the lap belt portion of the belt. If it’s cinched and doesn’t loosen when you pull up on it – you have a locking latchplate.

Carseat Check Road SignThere are other protocols in place regarding CR replacement, technician to vehicle ratios, verification of installs for tech recertification, etc., but those vary from check to check depending on the circumstances.  Safe Kids coalitions have specific protocols that must be followed at all events but for those CPS programs (like mine), that are not affiliated with Safe Kids – it’s really up to the person in charge to make sure that the necessary resources are available and the CPS Techs staffing the event are all on the same page.