Nothing is more precious to parents than their children. They love, feed, and nurture their children. As they grow they educate them, save for their futures, and try to ensure they have a great foundation for the rest of their lives. Parents go to a lot of trouble to ensure the safety of their children. Unfortunately, there are hazards all around, even in everyday activities and items, like stores and vehicles. Thankfully, there are some alarms that provide modern assistance to parents trying to keep their children safe.
Child Locator Alarms
Every parent has had at least one heart-stopping moment with a small child in a crowded grocery store, mall, or amusement park. The parent turns their head for one moment and the child is gone. After a frantic search, usually the child is found just around the corner. What if there was a device that could help a parent locate this child, or to alert them that the child has left their side in the first place?
Several companies have child locator alarms on the market for just this situation. They usually have two parts; the child must have one part and the parent has the receiver. The child’s part is either something that can be worn, like a bracelet, or something that can be clipped onto a belt, shoelace, or clothing. Manufacturers usually make these resemble an animal or other child friendly character. The parent’s receiver resembles a key fob.
These devices work in different ways. Some of them are quiet unless the child wanders further than a preset distance away from the receiver. Then the receiver will beep loudly. Others beep intermittently as long as the child is within the acceptable parameters. Then a loud alarm will sound if that distance increases too much. Some of the devices have a reverse use, where the parent can press a button on the receiver, making the child’s part beep loudly. This allows the parent to more quickly find the child by following the sound.
While these are good for young children, usually one to seven year olds, GPS locators work better for older children. These GPS locators work in the same way GPS locators on cell phones work. The child wears a watch, bracelet, or ankle bracelet with the locator in it. The parent can then check on the location of the child with a smartphone or a computer. Alternately, if the child has a cell phone of his own, it can act as the locator.
The alarms which rely on distance from the receivers have had mixed results. Each parent should do research and read reviews about the exact model he is thinking of purchasing. While none of these alarms can substitute for adult supervision, the better ones can provide an added layer of protection, especially in crowded areas where it is easier to get separated from a child. The GPS locators have a better track record of working as advertised, provided the child does not take off the device.
Pool Safety Alarms
A backyard pool is a great asset to a home, especially in areas with a very hot climate. However, little scares a parent of young children more than the dangers of a pool in the back yard. Drowning is the second leading cause of death for children under the age of 15. While adults need to always supervise children around pools, pool safety alarms can also give parents one more tool to keep their children safe.
Many experts advise installing a fence around all residential pools. This helps keep children away from the pool when no one else is around. The fence must have a gate that can lock. A pool gate alarm can be attached to this gate. When activated, this alarm will sound if the gate is opened. While some of these just issue a loud noise, many also have receivers that are placed inside the house. This alerts adults in the house to the fact that someone has entered the pool area.
Another pool safety alarm actually goes off when someone enters the pool. Like the locator alarms, these can work in different ways. Some have bracelets that are put on the child’s arm. If sensors in the bracelet are submerged in water, they send a signal to the receiver, which emits a loud noise. The obvious shortcoming to these is that people who live in a house with a pool must put these on the child every day. They are less expensive than other types of pool alarms, so they would be a good option for parents who are occasionally over at someone else’s home that has a pool.
Other pool alarms are installed on the pool itself. Some are surface disturbance alarms. These have two sensors: one which floats on the water and the other is positioned just above the water. If someone jumps or falls in the pool, water splashes up to the above water sensor, completing an electrical circuit. The completion of this circuit triggers a receiver to emit a loud alarms sound.
The second type is a submerged alarm system. This is mounted on the side of the pool with the sensors submerged several inches below the surface. These sensors are activated by waves which are produced when someone falls or jumps into the pool. Like the other sensors, it sends a signal to a receiver which makes a loud noise to indicate something is in the pool.
All of these sensors, the wristbands, surface, and submerged, run on batteries, so these must be checked and replaced regularly is order to maintain effectiveness. According to experts the submerged alarm systems are the best and most effective. Most recommend using these in conjunction with mechanical pool covers when the pool is not in use.
Car Safety Alarms
When parents think of car safety, they usually think of car seats in case of a traffic accident. However, many children are killed each year by or in cars but not in crashes. Sometimes parents leave their children in hot cars, or in freezing weather, where they die. Other children are run over as vehicles are trying to back up out of a driveway. Manufacturers have been working on alarms to help parents avoid these tragedies.
Each year, a few parents make the news headlines because they forget that their children are in the backseats of their cars when they go to work or go shopping. Even moderately warm temperatures can kill a child after a few hours. In hot weather, it doesn’t take long at all for hyperthermia to set in. Usually this happens when a parent’s routine is altered. Maybe the other parent usually takes a child to daycare, or the child is sick and so doesn’t go to the babysitter’s that day. Whatever the reason, these parents will pay for these tragic mistakes for the rest of their lives.
What if there was an alarm that would sound if a parent tried to leave the car with a child still in it? There are a few of these on the market, with more slated to come out in the next few years. One such device starts playing a lullaby when the engine stops. This helps remind parents that there is a child in the back. Experts also suggest always putting purses or briefcases in the backseat next to the car seat, even if there is no child in it, so that having to retrieve these will act as a reminder to check the seat in case there is a child in the back.
Another device attaches to the straps of existing car seats, with an accompanying receiver which goes on the parent’s key ring. When the child is buckled in the alarm is activated and is deactivated when unbuckled. If the receives goes more than 20 feet from the car seat without being deactivated the receiver alerts the parent. An optional receiver will sound the alarm if the driver’s door shuts and the car seat is still buckled.
Another danger with cars, especially larger ones like SUVs and minivans, common family cars, is the inability to see a small child who might be behind the vehicle when backing up. Each week about 50 children are run over in driveways or on residential streets because they were too short to be seen by the drivers. Car manufactures and safety companies are marketing alarms which will alert drivers of objects behind them.
Some vehicles are now being equipped with rearview cameras, which give the driver a clear view of what is directly behind them. These can be installed aftermarket as well. A less expensive option is to install a backup alarm. These make a loud beeping sound when the car is put into reverse. Some even have a voice which alerts anyone around the car that the vehicle is backing up. The obvious shortcoming of these is that it relies on the child to then get out of the way. If it is a toddler, or child who is hurt and can’t get out of the way, this might not be effective in helping the driver avoid running over them.
Although they are a bit more expensive, there are after-market backup sensors that alert the drivers if they are approaching an object as they back up. They use ultrasonic waves to determine the presence and distance of the objects. Some even have a digital readout, telling the driver how many feet they are from it. These alarms are less than $100 each. The after-market rearview cameras are less than $150. For any parent of small children, these are well worth peace of mind when backing out a vehicle.
Parents are understandably cautious when it comes to the safety of their children. They buy car seats, electrical plug covers, and bike helmets. The availability of alarms for other purposes, like pools and children still in car seats, can help busy parents by providing yet another layer of security. As with any alarm, however, they are not a substitute to parental supervision, but merely an aid to it.
For more information on these alarms and for other child safety tips, please refer to the following articles.
- Protect Children from Kidnappers
- Evaluation of Pool Swimming Alarms (PDF)
- Consumer Reports: Swimming Pool Alarms
- Backyard Pool Safety (PDF)
- Stats: Kids Killed By and In Cars
- Tips to Help You Never Leave Your Child in the Car
- NASA Helps Create Car Seat Alarm
- Custom Alarms for Cars and Kids
- Protecting Children In and Around Cars (PDF)
- Child Safety
- National Center for Missing & Exploited Children: Child Safety Tips