|Don’t Lose the Kids|
When I was 7 years old, I went to the mall with my parents. We didn’t get into town that much and the nearest mall was in the next county. We were in a JCPenney store, and I lost track of time while sitting in the middle of a circular clothing rack waiting for some unsuspecting customer to slide the clothes open and find me sitting in the middle. That trick never failed to get a shocked look and hand over the mouth as the clothes slid open to reveal an easily-amused country boy who didn’t get to town very much.
After the fun was over and I climbed out of the rack, I realized my parents were nowhere in sight. A feeling of doom came over me as I scanned the faces of strangers, and I knew I was in a fix. Back then, each counter operator had a loudspeaker microphone sitting atop a silver, flexible coiled arm. I walked up to the lady at the make-up counter and told her I needed to make an announcement. She eyed me suspiciously, but surprisingly let me make the announcement as follows: "Will the parents of John Howle please come to the make-up counter in JCPenney?"
Shortly after, my parents showed up to take me back to the farm. After that, I made sure not to wander too far away when in strange, foreign environments like the mall. We’ve all heard horror stories about children getting lost in the mall or the woods. A parent or grandparent begins to think the worst as they frantically search. The worst case scenario we can think of is someone abducting the child.
Early this year, a 7-year-old girl had wandered away from her mother and was on the toy aisle. A man grabbed the second-grade child, put his hand over her mouth and tried to leave the store. Surveillance video showed the man staking out the toy department for 10 minutes before he put his hand over her mouth and tried to leave the store with her. Fortunately, the young girl began screaming and kicking, and the man dropped her and ran off.
This story had a positive ending and the man was later arrested. Sometimes, unfortunately, the story ends in tragedy. Hopefully, after reading these tips, you will know what to do to keep from losing any children in your care this summer.
Whistle in the Woods
As families head out to the state parks, campgrounds and amusement parks, special care should be taken before the trip to avoid any child becoming lost. Rule number one when heading out into the woods for camping or even picnicking is to arm each child with a whistle. Place a whistle around the neck of each child with a lanyard and explain to them only to blow it if they are lost which can aid in a quick rescue. Explain to the child that three loud bursts of sound is the international distress signal. Finally, warn each child not to blow the whistle unless they are truly lost
Older children who are equipped with a sense of adventure are particularly at risk for becoming lost in the woods. These older children can, however, quickly learn the old Boy Scout acronym, STOP. STOP stands for sit, think, observe and plan.
By simply sitting, the youth is forced to stay put for a short period and possibly prevent getting deeper in the woods. The mind is the best survival tool, and when the youth starts to think, they take an inventory of things around them like the weather, survival equipment like a whistle blown three times, and take a mental inventory of nearby trails or roads. Observing allows the youth to take note of the resources available for survival like shelter and signaling. Finally, the youth should be able to make a plan like selecting a survival site near an open area, setting up a series of signals, and creating a shelter and fire.
Out of the Woods and into the City
If you are going to be in suburban areas like malls, amusement parks, public beaches or crowded public areas, have the child dress in bright, easy-to-identify colors. Young children should have their parent’s cell phone number pinned inside their clothing. Also, keep a recent photo of your child with you at all times to make search and identification easier. Finally, keep your young child by your side at all times and if you do become separated, get someone in authority involved at once.
Best Resource for Lost-Proofing Your Child
My good friend and master outdoorsman, J. Wayne Fears, has written a pocket-sized book titled, "How to Lost-Proof Your Child." This is a parent or grandparent’s best resource of information when it comes to keeping your child from ending up as a tragic statistic. In this book, parents and guardians lean how to lost-proof children in any situation from a shopping mall to the wilderness.
You will also learn how to teach children what to do if they become lost and what steps to take if you realize the child is missing. Fears even gives information on situations that can be avoided to prevent missing situations. This book fits easily in a pocket, backpack or purse, and can save the parent tons of stress before heading out to enjoy vacations and camping trips.
John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.