Superior Fire Department to offer monthly car seat clinics

Anyone is welcome on a first-come, first-served basis. The next date is Thursday, Sept. 8.

080922.N.ST.Car seat three.JPG
Child passenger safety technicians Gary Winters, from left, Suzi Olson and Colton Lorenz with the Superior Fire Department check the make and model numbers on a child's car seat during a car seat clinic at the headquarters station Thursday, Aug. 4.
Maria Lockwood / Superior Telegram
We are part of The Trust Project.

SUPERIOR — The Superior Fire Department hosted its first car seat clinic since the pandemic began Thursday, Aug. 4.

Members plan to hold monthly clinics the first Thursday of every month, alternating between noon to 2 p.m. and 4-6 p.m. The next one will be held from 4-6 p.m. Sept. 8 at the headquarters station, 3326 Tower Ave.

“People who do this for us all have kids. They’re passionate about making sure their kids are safe,” and that extends into the community, Battalion Chief Joe Tribbey said.

080922.N.ST.Car seat two.JPG
Avery Schafter, 9 months, front, and her sister, Addi Chapman, 9, sit in their seats in the bay of the Superior Fire Department headquarters station, 3326 Tower Ave., during a car seat clinic Thursday, Aug. 4. Because Addi is not 4 feet, 9 inches tall, she uses a booster seat in the car.
Maria Lockwood / Superior Telegram

“None of us want to go on a scene of a car accident and see a child injured,” said Capt. Suzi Olson, a technician with the department. “We want to make sure that every kid in this city is in the proper seat and safe at all times. That would be our ultimate goal. So that we can show up on that scene and they’re OK. And they’re still smiling and cooing at us and we don’t have to treat them for pediatric trauma.”

An expectant mother was their first visitor. “She’s never had a baby before. We had an infant seat. She got to practice actually putting the baby in the seat,” Olson said.


Tribbey was next in line. He brought in the seat he uses for his grandchildren, Neveah and Noah. Technicians caught an installation issue — a twisted seat belt that was too loose — before they pulled the seat out to find the label with the make, model and manufacturing date. A check revealed no recalls for the seat.

Tribbey received instruction on how to adjust the straps for the children and install it properly; technicians even helped him register it so he would get alerts if there is a recall for the seat in the future.

080922.N.ST.Car seat smile.JPG
Capt. Suzi Olson with the Superior Fire Department, left, hands a check-off sheet to Battalion Chief Joe Tribbey during a car seat clinic Thursday, Aug. 4. Pictured in background: Amanda Schafter, a child passenger safety instructor with Safe Kids Northeast Minnesota, holds her daughter, Avery, 9 months. Tribbey brought his grandchild's seat to the clinic to ensure it was properly installed.
Maria Lockwood / Superior Telegram

“I think when you’re a busy parent, a busy grandparent, guardian — whoever’s taking care of that kid — you just get busy sometimes, and unfortunately, the safety of the car seat is one of the last things you’re thinking about. You’re just thinking, ‘I’m going to get the kid in the car. I need to go.’ That’s where these guys doing this really, really makes an impact,” Tribbey said.

The entire process takes about a half-hour because it’s not just an installation.

080922.N.ST.Car seat sign.JPG
A sign outside the entrance to the Superior Fire Department headquarters station alerts motorists that a car seat clinic is taking place Thursday, Aug. 4. It is the first public clinic the department has hosted since the pandemic began.
Maria Lockwood / Superior Telegram

“We’re teaching you so that if, for whatever reason, you have to take the car seat out at some point in time … now you have the knowledge to put it back in safely and properly yourself,” Olson said.

Anyone is welcome at the clinic on a first-come, first-served basis.

“We don’t care where you’re from. We just want your kids to be safe,” Olson said.

The clinic works best if the child comes with so technicians can verify the harness straps are in the right location and show adults how to gauge if it needs adjusting. It’s an everyday skill for those with youngsters.


“Technically, you should check your seat every time you put your kid in it. You should give a little tug and see if it’s still tight because it can become loose with use,” said Amanda Schafter, a child passenger safety instructor from St. Luke's with Safe Kids Northeast Minnesota.

080922.N.ST.Car seat numbers.JPG
Superior Fire Department child passenger safety technicians Gary Winters, left, and Suzi Olson check for manufacturing information on the bottom of a car seat during a car seat clinic Thursday, Aug. 4. In addition to checking for recalls and expiration dates, technicians can help owners register their seat, ensure it's properly installed and help adjust straps so they fit the child properly.
Maria Lockwood / Superior Telegram

The straps and buckle may need to be adjusted monthly as they grow, she said, and guardians need to know when the child has outgrown the maximum height and weight for the seat they’re using so they can move to the next stage.

Per Wisconsin statute, children must ride in a rear-facing car seat until they are 1 year old and weigh 20 pounds. A forward-facing car seat with a harness is required until they are 4 years old and weigh 40 pounds. A booster seat is required until they are 8 years old or weigh 80 pounds or are 4 feet, 9 inches tall.

080922.N.ST.Car seat Avery.JPG
Avery Schafter, 9 months, looks up from her rear-facing car seat during a car seat clinic at the Superior Fire Department headquarters station Thursday, Aug. 4.
Maria Lockwood / Superior Telegram

Olson offered a tip for parents adjusting straps: Take a cellphone picture of the back of the seat before you take the back apart. Schafter said she always adjusts one side at a time.

Child car seats are good for six years unless otherwise specified on the label, the instructor said. Once a seat is outgrown or times out, it can be dropped off at a child car seat recycling event. Target has held events like that in the past, Schafter said. She cautioned against purchasing a child car seat from an online marketplace, since it could be timed out or a fake that doesn’t meet national safety standards.

In addition to Superior, car seat clinics are offered by the Duluth and Cloquet fire departments. The goal is to offer one in the Twin Ports area every two weeks, Schafter said.

For more information and upcoming clinic dates, visit the Safe Kids NE Minnesota Facebook page , the Superior Fire Department Facebook page or call 715-395-1680.

The safe space brings together a host of services, from laundry facilities to Wi-Fi access for young people ages 12-21.


080922.N.ST.Car seat law 1.jpg
Wisconsin child passenger safety laws.
Contributed / Safe Kids Wisconsin
Child car seat checklist
Contributed / Safe Kids Northeast Minnesota

Maria Lockwood covers news in Douglas County, Wisconsin, for the Superior Telegram.
What to read next
Despite lifesaving efforts, the 64-year-old man from Watertown, Wisconsin, was pronounced dead at the scene.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is asking for increasing resources to uncover allegations of clergy abuse.
As reported by Douglas County Circuit Court.
The incident started at Minnesota Power headquarters, went across the Bong Bridge to Superior and back to Duluth via the Oliver Bridge before a 70 mph collision along snowy roads.