Parents thinking they can pull into their friendly, neighborhood fire station for an expert check of their child's car seat, may need to keep on driving.
Some suburban fire departments that used to offer car seat inspections are no longer doing so, citing lengthy certification processes, budget cuts and liability. Leon Valley is one that recently stopped offering the service.
San Antonio Fire Department has never done car seat checks, according to a department spokesman.
"It's pretty time-consuming to keep up your certification," said Jason Mabbitt, with Schertz EMS, which still does car seat checks. And, it's a service he says is in demand.
"We get calls all the time," he said. "I had two yesterday. The parents were just freaked out."
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration oversees training of certified child passenger safety technicians. It's an extensive four-day certification training that must be renewed every two years.
While thousands of people are certified nationwide, San Antonio has about two dozen certified techs.
Most are with hospital systems like University, Methodist and Christus Santa Rosa.
"Unfortunately, we're a huge city, but there aren't very many resources to go get that expertise you need for correct car seat information," said Sergio Vega with University Health System which leads Safe Kids San Antonio (www.safekids.org ).
University Hospital child safety teams and Safe Kids routinely visit clinics and schools to assist parents in properly restraining children in car seats, making sure seats are snugly and correctly installed and even providing seats to those who cannot afford them.
Tuesday morning they were at the Kenwood Clinic on Dora Street where Alejandra Carar came for help. She said even though she was installing a seat for her third child, she still wanted to be sure it was safe and snug.
Parents wanting to find a certified child passenger safety technician can contact www.safekids.org.
In addition to Schertz EMS, Live Oak Fire Department and Shavano Park Fire Department will inspect car seats for residents. Because technicians are not always on duty, parents should make an appointment.