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CCMH provides child car seat safety program

01/20/10

Amy Hartwig couldn’t take the news anymore.

She was tired of hearing reports about tragic injuries or even deaths of small children that were the result of improper usage of child safety seats.

The more she learned – such as the fact as many as 80 percent of child car seats currently in use on our country’s roadways are either not installed correctly or not meeting safety standards – the more motivated she became to help make a difference locally.

As a registered nurse at Crawford County Memorial Hospital, Hartwig felt she and her co-workers were in a position to help increase education and awareness regarding the proper way to install child car seats. The only roadblock was finding a way to acquire the specific education needed to become a Child Passenger Safety Technician.

“I contacted the Iowa Department of Public Health to sign up for a course so I could become certified,” said Hartwig. “I found out there would be a minimum two-year waiting list in the state of Iowa until a spot would be available for me.”

After talking with co-workers at the hospital and colleagues around the area who had a similar interest, she was certain Crawford County needed to increase the number of certified Child Passenger Safety Technicians – which stood at just 1 in 2009 – to serve the residents’ needs.

And she was convinced it needed to happen a lot quicker than two years down the road.

“Young children need to be safe every time they are in a vehicle,” said Hartwig.

Instead of waiting multiple years to get multiple people trained, Crawford County Memorial Hospital made special arrangements to bring an instructor to Denison to teach the intensive four-day training. With the generous usage of the National Guard Armory’s indoor space to accommodate several vehicles equipped with car seats, and arrangements coordinated by the hospital staff, 11 local residents – including Hartwig – recently became certified Child Passenger Safety Technicians.

“We spent 8 hours a day learning about all of the different types of car seats and how each of them should be installed,” said Hartwig. “We also learned how to tell if a seat had been recalled, was damaged, or if a child was positioned incorrectly within the seat.”

As part of their certification, each Technician is now required to stay updated on the latest child restraint law requirements and must receive ongoing continuing education. They are also required to provide hands-on assistance with the proper use of child restraint systems and safety belts to their local community.

Along with Hartwig, Crawford County Memorial Hospital has three other employees who are now certified Child Passenger Safety Technicians. These employees include Emily Thams, RN; Julie Graeve, ARNP, MS; and Dulce Gaona – who is bilingual. Additional residents from Crawford County who took the class included Jennifer Chapman, Angela Heiden, Lisa Jepsen, Cheryl Lahr, Mary Ohrtman, Amy Trucke and Patty Ritchie.

“Any of us are available for one-on-one education and guidance,” said Hartwig.

The hospital has set up a hotline for parents who are interested in making appointments to have their car seats inspected. Individuals are asked to call the hospital at 712-263-5021 and request to be transferred to the car seat safety hotline. They are encouraged to leave a message with their name and number, and a staff member will return their call within 24 hours to set up an appointment.

“Parents should plan on about 30 minutes of time,” said Hartwig. “It’s important to note that they should bring their children along so we can be sure the child is in a seat that is appropriate for his or her size.”

In addition to the one-on-one appointments, the group of Child Passenger Safety Technicians is planning a community-wide car seat check in Denison sometime in May. More information will be made available to the public as details are finalized.

“We’re here to help make sure parents leave with their kids as safe as can be in the vehicle,” said Hartwig.