Everyone has heard the words “buckle up,” in terms of seatbelts. However, making sure a car seat or booster seat is properly strapped into a vehicle is no less important or life saving.

To help local families keep their children safe Richmond Police and Richmond Fire departments hosted a car seat safety check Thursday in the mall parking lot, after attending a four-day course hosted by the National Child Passenger Safety Board, National Highway Safety Administration and Kentucky Safe Kids, a division of Safe Kids Worldwide.

Instructors of the child passenger safety program supervised officers and firefighters during the check, the final portion of their course, to make sure they were accurately educating the public.

“It’s the responsibility of the caregiver to ensure the child is properly restrained in the vehicle. Failure to (do so) could be a fatal decision,” said Richmond Police Officer Daniel Kirstein.

In fact, correctly used safety seats can reduce risk of death by up to 71 percent, according to Safe Kids Worldwide.com.

“This is absolutely a service we should be providing to the community,” said Richmond Fire Public Information Officer Corey Lewis, who noted the agencies began meeting the need in 2009.

Over the years it waned, but now is being rejuvenated under the leadership of Richmond Fire Chief Robert Carmichael and Richmond Police Chief James Ebert.

During the course, members of the two Richmond agencies (six from RPD and nine from RFD), and several others from nearby cities, became certified child passenger safety technicians and were taught how to educate the public on child safety.

Certified participants are now able to go out into the community and perform inspections and car seat/ booster seat installations.

“We don’t want to just fix (the seat) and then send them on their way,” said Kirstein. “Our goal is to educate and show (families) how to install and check the seats themselves. We want them to know what to do and when to do it.”

The Big Five

Steps to perform a care seat check include:

• Selection: choose the right seat for the child.

• Direction: is the seat forward or rear facing based on the age, height, weight and the seat manual.

• Location: where the car seat is placed in the vehicle. The back seat is best, according to Safe Kids Worldwide.

• Installation: is the seat secured to the vehicle is the right way according to the seat and vehicle manuals?

• Harnessing: is the child placed correctly in the seat?

Pitfalls and a promise

One of the most often made mistakes by caregivers is having a car seat facing the wrong direction, typically forward facing too early, or it is too loose. Once again, Kirstein said, read the manual.

The officer noted that many car seats also have expiration dates.

Kirstein said, for first installations, it is a good idea to look for a certified child passenger safety technician to assist. Luckily for local residents, RPD and RFD are available to help, whether for installation or to have their seat checked.

Kirstein said the day, as well as subsequent seat checks, allows the police and fire agencies a positive way to interact with the community.

“We get to learn people’s names,” said Lewis. “We get to interact with them on a totally different level… and lets us relate to the community. That’s what community service is about.”

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Several car seats were provided onsite through the Madison County Safety Coalition and the Health Department. The seats were made available thanks in part to community donations. To donate to the cause, contact Lloyd Jordison, heath education director at the Madison County Health Department at 859-228-2059.

For more information on safety, visit SafeKids.org. To contact Richmond Police regarding car safety checks, call 859-623-1162; for Richmond Fire call 859-626-1164.

Reach Critley King at 624-6623; follow her on Twitter @critleyking.

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