We recently held a big child passenger safety education and carseat giveaway event in my city where we gave out 241 carseats. It was awesome reaching so many families and making sure that their children are riding more safely than before they came to the event. Many of the parents told me they had only heard of the event that morning on the news, which was great, but we had been heavily advertising it on social media and at the school where it was held. I was disheartened because we had been heavily advertising the event, but we hadn’t hit our target audience. How can parents find the help they need?
We’re fortunate to have regular monthly carseat checkup events in my city. I know in many places, weather makes it so that events have to be cancelled during the colder months (we dial it back during the hot months!). That means parents, caregivers, and professionals who work with them come to expect these events and know they’ll be taking place. But what about other locations around the country? How do you find CPS technicians or events to help you?
I bet you’ve heard to go to the fire department or police station to have your carseat installed; however, many firefighters and police officers aren’t trained. In fact, they’ve probably installed their own carseats incorrectly! In my major city, we have 0-zero-zilch currently certified firefighters and 1 city police officer, though we do have many highway patrol and school police officers certified as technicians. Though every community is different, we’re pretty average when I compare notes with other CPSTs around the country. Some communities may have a few firefighters and cops trained, but on the whole, the budget isn’t there to pay them for events.
So how do you find someone in your community to help you with your carseats if you can’t run to the nearest fire or police station?
First, look for a Safe Kids coalition near you; they will often have checkup events. Not every coalition has checkup events, though, and not every checkup event is sponsored by a Safe Kids coalition. As long as you have certified technicians on hand to check your carseats and educate you, you’re good to go!
Even though police and firefighters may not be trained as CPS technicians, they partner with us because they want everyone to be safe. Following their social media pages makes it more likely that you’ll hear about which events they support.
Following the social media pages of local mom and playgroup groups can give you a heads-up on events happening too, though you have to be really careful because it seems bad child passenger safety advice on these groups spreads like wildfire while good advice spreads like a molasses spill. However, when we have events, we try to spread the word to these groups because we want *you* to know about them.
One way you can find carseat help is through an inspection station. Inspection stations are “permanent” locations where you usually make an appointment with a CPST. They can be anywhere that has a CPST on staff, such as a retail store, AAA location, hospital, or a family resource center.
For those of you who prefer to have a customized experience at home, there are techs who will take an appointment with you, either for free or for a fee. Usually you’ll hear about these techs through word-of-mouth or they’ll filter through your social media feeds. Another way to find a tech is on the National Child Passenger Safety Certification website. The key to using this search engine is to be as broad as possible; the more specific you are, the more likely you are to confuse the search and not find someone near you. For instance, enter your county and state only instead of your zip code. CPS Certification also posts facts and other tidbits on their Facebook page: www.facebook.com/CPScert .
The internet is obviously a way to get personalized help with your carseats and our forums at car-seat.org are the OG place where techs used to hang out. There are Facebook groups to handle carseat questions, but you have to weed through well-intentioned responses that may not have accurate information. Some manufacturers offer help in the form of video chat so you can show their techs up close your carseat installation and child fitting in their carseat. Since more manufacturers add this support feature each year, check with yours but Evenflo and Dorel are currently two of the manufacturers who actively use it.
There are a tens of thousands of us across the US and Canada (and around the world!) who want to help you keep your children safe as you drive each day. We’re out there and we’re not hiding!