A: One of the most sudden gut wrenching moments in one’s life is when a parent or guardian is realizing their child, whom they thought was right beside them, has now disappeared and cannot be found by simply doing a quick scan of the area.
Possibly the family is at a busy shopping center, the county or state fair, or even a local grocery store. What would you do? Are there steps that can be done before leaving home for the day to help decrease the panic that sets in and also increase the ability to find your child quicker? The answer is “YES!”
First - Take a photo of your child before you leave for the day. One of the first questions law enforcement will ask is “What are they wearing?” Cell phone technology has made this very easy to do and easily accessible as well. A photo truly is worth a thousand words.
A free app that can be used on your phone is the FBI Child ID, where you can update photos as needed, enter identifying information (birthmarks, height, weight, etc.) and contact information. In the event of a missing child (or person with dementia or vulnerable adult), this app can be used to contact the local law enforcement agency in the area and also provide the ability to send the information via email to their dispatch center to quickly and accurately disseminate to officers and deputies looking for the missing person in real time. (Note: The FBI does not share your information – it just sponsors the application. Any information you forward would be your choice.)
Second – Write your child’s first name and your cell number and contact information on a slip of paper and put in their pocket for safe keeping and use if they do get separated. You should begin to teach your child their name, address, phone number (with area code), and your given names – not just Mom and Dad – as soon as they are able to learn this information. However, if they are scared or under stress, they may not be able to remember or even recite the information to an adult when asked for help.
Third - Have a predetermined place to meet in the area. By the cashiers, the Ferris Wheel, or at customer service. This can help not only your child but you if you get separated from an adult party and cannot find them right away.
Fourth – Know who to get help from. If it is a small child, point out the officers that work at the State Fair. Show them what the employees of the stores wear – what does their uniform look like, etc. How can they find them easily? Explain to your child that they are the ones that stand behind the counter and take money for purchases.
Being prepared for an incident like this before it ever happens will provide the tools and resources necessary to help responding law enforcement officials help you to find your loved one in the quickest way possible.