For parents, spending the day navigating crowded events — like the Canada 150 celebrations in Ottawa — while also keeping track of children, can be a daunting task.
Ottawa police Const. Chuck Benoit says there are things parents and guardians can do to make sure children stay safe, and are easily found in case they do wander away.
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Talk to children before attending the event
There are several pre-emptive steps parents can take even before leaving the house.
The first one is to talk to children about the event. Benoit says it’s important to tell them why you’re attending and exactly what the event will entail. Then, teach them all relevant contact information — including phone numbers, home address and full names.
One useful tip, he says, is to write contact information on the child’s arm with a marker, then cover it with liquid band-aid or a sticker so it won’t rub off.
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It’s also recommended that parents take a photo of their child, so police will have a current description of the person they are searching for.
What to do after arriving at the event
Parents should take a few minutes to go around the venue, then pick a meeting spot in case children get lost. Benoit suggests choosing “large and high” landmarks.
Benoit adds that some children may be “intimidated” by uniformed officers, so it’s important parents introduce them to one.
“It’s a good way of having a child know what an officer looks like,” so they know who to approach for help if they’re lost, the constable says.
Steps to take if children get lost
Children who have wandered away may approach police or security workers, so inform police of the lost child right first, Benoit says.
At Canada Day celebrations on Parliament Hill in particular, there will be Ottawa Police, RCMP and Parliamentary Protective Service officers present. Benoit says all officers are trained to relay the information of a lost child by radio and “act very quick.”
At the Ottawa event, tents are set up for lost children services and labelled with teddy bear signs. Parents can contact Parliamentary Protective Service’s emergency number: 613-992-7000.
At least one family member should wait at the designated meeting spot.