Great tips by Helium on what to do if your child gets lost at a large, crowded area like an amusement park:
If your child becomes lost at a theme park, the best thing to do is to stay calm. According to the IAAPA (International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions), most amusement and theme parks worldwide have a Lost Child protocol in place. As soon as you realize a child is lost, begin following the steps for recovery.
1) Scan immediate area, retrace steps
As soon as you realize the child is missing, scan the area. Many times younger children will stop to look at something interesting. You know your child best. What distracts him? Bugs? Shiny things? Balloons? Look for anything that may have captivated your child’s attention. If you are in a souvenir shop, look under the clothing racks or where a child may be playing hide-and-seek. If there is more than one adult available or a responsible teen, retrace your steps for the last five minutes. Kids have been known to plop down when they’ve decided they do not want to go any further.
2) Alert a park employee
If you cannot locate your child quickly, alert a park employee. You do not have to search for security, simply find a ride operator, food vendor or maintenance worker as each will have access to a two-way radio. The park employee can alert security and employees throughout the park. In addition, a security officer most likely will be sent to the front entrance to monitor everyone leaving.
Be able to give the park employee an accurate description of the child, including name and/or nickname, height, weight and clothing. If you have a safety word your child uses to distinguish known persons from strangers, be sure to share that information. Provide the park with a picture of your child.
3) Keep calling the child’s cell phone
If you have given your child a cell phone, keep calling it and give the number to park security. Anytime a child has been given a cell phone for emergency purposes, be sure the phone is set to vibrate in addition to the ring tone. A vibration setting can usually be felt through a pocket even when the park is too noisy for a ringtone to be heard.
4) Check Lost & Found
While the search is on, be sure to send someone to the park’s Lost & Found. Sometimes signals may become crossed and a lost child is taken to Lost & Found by a well-meaning adult before park security is alerted.
5) Cooperate with park security
It is extremely difficult for parents not to hit full-scale panic when their child is lost. Try to remember that park security is trained and experienced in these situations. Trust and follow their directions. By moving around and not heeding directions, you may hinder their search.
Consider the following safety measures and prepare children before arriving at the theme park. Preparation can be key to avoiding a lost child scenario.
6) Clothe for easy sighting
Bright colored t-shirts in orange, neon pink, yellow or lime green make it easier to see a child in a crowd. Never put the child’s name on the shirt. However, a recognizable picture like a baseball or smiley face can help make the child easier to spot.
7) Always have a recent picture
Providing park security with the lost child’s picture is essential. When you first enter the park, take a quick picture with your cell phone and save. If your child should become lost, you have a current picture and will not have to rely on memory to describe clothing.
8) Stay in touch, electronically and physically
Older children can be given a cell phone, set to vibrate to carry in a secure pocket. If you have a GPS tracking service on the phone, activate it for the day. Be sure your cell number is programmed in the spot ICE (in case of emergency.) Younger children should be made to hold an adult’s or older child’s hand when moving through an theme park. The younger child may also be happy to hold onto a baby’s stroller.
Consider using a child safety tattoo. Featured in Parents Magazine, these temporary tattoos provide an important safety message but are fun for the kids to wear. The tattoos can be ordered through online retailers like Safetytat.com. A typical tattoo will feature a cute picture and read, “If Lost, please Call (space for cell number.)” Twenty-four tattoos cost about $20, are customizable and even waterproof. If this is not an option for your child, write your cell number on a slip of paper, seal it in a snack baggie and place in the child’s pocket.
For those into high-tech products, consider a Child GPS device like the Brickhouse Child Locator with wander alerts or the Amber Alert child GPS that can be tracked via cell phone.
9) Plan and prepare kids at home
Before visiting the park, talk about park safety and rules. This is a good idea no matter what age the children are, even teens can benefit from this discussion. Print out park maps from the park’s website and designate a family meeting place should separations occur. For little kids, remind them that if they become lost they should tell a uniformed park employee about the family meeting place.
The NCMEC (National Center for Missing and Exploited Children) recommends that parents role-play with their child before visiting an amusement park regarding safety protocols. Role-play with the children scenarios on what to do if they become lost. Parents should also rehearse with the kids questions that park employees may ask and how the child should answer each question.
Despite the best preventative measures, children still get lost at theme parks. Fortunately, most lost children are found quickly and without any issue. If your child does become lost, keep your wits and follow the logical steps. With quick, calm action and preventative measures, your lost child can be found.
The idea that appealed to me most: Taking a picture before or right after you get into the park so you have a recent photo with the clothing that your child is wearing. Now you no longer need to worry about trying to remember the outfit that he or she wore that day, and it makes the job easier for park employees to search for him and her with a definite description.
Do you have any safety tips you employ with your children that you would like to share with us?
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