McMURRAY – Chris Picard of Bethel Park was waiting at Peters Township Volunteer Fire Department for firefighter and emergency medical techician Adam Kauer to install a new car seat for Delaney Nardine, her granddaughter.
“I baby sit during the school year,” said Picard, explaining Delaney, now nearly 14 months, has outgrown her infant seat and needed a larger one.
When you think of a fire department, you naturally think of fires. But the Peters department has been installing car seats for residents, and others, for free since 2002.
The department installs an average of 300 a year, with summer being the busiest time for car seat installation, said firefighter and EMT Dave Holovack.
He and Kauer have been certified and trained the Traffic Injury Prevention Project, a state program that promotes traffic safety. Three other Peters firefighters are also been certified by TIPP to install car seats.
Peters Township Volunteer Fire Department the only agency in Washington County certified by the state to install car seats.
“There was a need for this,” Holovack said.
It’s important that a car seat is properly installed, he said, or it will not provide proper protection to a children in case there is an accident.
“Around 95 percent are installed wrong,” said Mike McLaughlin, the department’s deputy chief. “Our mission is to provide safety.”
Statistics from the website saferide-4kids.com show that in 2011, more than 650 children ages 12 and younger died as occupants in motor vehicle crashes. Thirty-three percent of those children were not restrained. Incorrect use or installation of a car seat translates to a child being three-and-a-half more times likely to be injured in a car crash, according to the site.
But improper installation is not the only way car seats can be misused.
Car seats last about six years before needing to be replaced, Holovack said. Also if a car seat is in a crash, it should be replaced.
“It may have sustained a hairline fracture,” he said. “There shouldn’t be any after-market products around the car seat, like window shades, mirrors or blankets.”
Holovack said people need to make sure car seats will fit in the vehicle’s back seat. The price of a car seat doesn’t matter, either. A seat that sells for $150 is basically the same as a $400 one.
“It just has more padding,” he said.
To have a car seat installed, call the fire department at 724-941-4176.