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Child car seats checked for safety in Chambersburg

August 25, 2008|By JENNIFER FITCH

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -- One little girl remained patient and content while being strapped into three vehicles on Sunday at the Chambersburg Fire Department event offering free evaluations of car seats.

Other children fussed or cried in the 45 minutes it takes certified technicians to check the seats, complete paperwork and talk to adults about effective ways to utilize the restraints.

Technicians evaluated about a dozen seats during the event. The five people who have been certified have worked with more than 100 people in the past two years, according to Jackie Umberger, a technician who works with the Franklin County, Pa., chapter of Safe Kids.

"We have some people coming back with other family members and cars," she said.

And that's more than OK with her. In fact, she wants every parent to visit the station for a seat check.

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"In seven years riding in the ambulance, I have yet to see a child restrained in a seat be injured," Umberger said.

Often, when the technicians respond to an accident, they tell the victims to visit the fire department for a new child safety seat as soon as they are physically able to do so.

"Once a seat has been in an accident, it's supposed to be replaced," Umberger said.

Seats are provided without charge for anyone who requests them, Umberger said. The seats come from Safe Kids and the Pennsylvania Traffic Injury Program, she said.

"We take donations if someone wants to make one," Umberger said.

To be certified, technicians go through a four-day class, one of which will be held this fall in Franklin County. The class covers various types of seats and vehicles, and provides hands-on training with the restraining devices.

"It's hard to find in Franklin County someone who is qualified to do it," Umberger said.

She said general tips for safety seats include reading the instruction manuals and making sure the seats do not move more than an inch when grabbed near the belt.

"Most parents don't make the harness tight enough because they think it looks uncomfortable," Umberger said. "You should be able to fit one finger underneath."

All seat models sold in retail stores have passed testing regardless of price, according to Umberger.

"They all have been tested to the same standards," she said.

State law requires that children be in a booster seat until age 8, Umberger said.

"We have those available as well, and can check them," she said.

The fire department plans to hold another car seat check on Nov. 8. However, Umberger said a technician is almost always on duty. She recommended calling ahead to 717-263-5872 to set up a time with a technician.

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