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.
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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
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.
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.