Officials offer advice for missing child scenarios

Published 5:00 am Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The first night of the Exchange Club Fair Saturday, a little boywalked up to a mother who had three children with her and didn’tsay a word.

Luckily, said Exchange Club’s Head of Security Roger Leggett,she knew where to bring the boy to help him locate his family.

“He just walked up and never said a word,” said Leggett. “Hewouldn’t say anything to her, nor to us.”

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Leggett said the child was finally safely returned to hismother. He was one of three “misplaced” children that night.

Officials said the incidents should serve as safety remindersfor families when attending large events.

“It goes back to things you learn in the home,” said CliffordGaley, Lincoln County Civil Defense director and head of theLincoln County Firefighters Association. “Wherever you are, youshould have a place for your family to go if you get separated.Just pick a place to go, and meet there if there’s a problem.”

To date, Galey said problems at the Exchange Club Fair have onlybeen with children who wandered away while their parents weren’tlooking.

“Normally they just get separated and they don’t think abouttelling their mom where they’re going,” he said.

Usually, officials said, children who are lost at the fair havegone to ride the rides or to the bathroom. Sometimes they havestopped to talk to a friend; then they look up and realize theycan’t see their parents anymore.

Galey and Leggett both stressed the importance of making sureyour child knows where to locate help if he is separated from hisor her grown-ups.

“Tell kids to look for someone from the Exchange Club or any ofthe security officers and tell them they’re lost,” said Leggett.”And make sure they know to stay inside the railroad tracks. Thisevent is for kids, and we sure don’t want anything terrible tospoil that for the future.”

There are also things parents should know, Galey said.

“We’d truly rather you let us know as soon as you realize yourchild is missing,” he said. “That way there’s less chance of theirgetting further away. If something is wrong and you alert usquickly, we can react while they’re still here somewhere.”

Leggett said even the little things can prove integral in alost-child scenario.

“Don’t forget what they’re wearing,” he said. “Dress them insomething easy to describe and recognize. Remind them it’s not OKto talk to strangers, but they need to talk to the police andsecurity guards.”

But that applies anywhere, Galey said. Whether it’s the ExchangeClub Fair or a shopping trip at the mall, it’s always imperative tohave an emergency plan.

“And please don’t waste time looking yourself,” he said. “TheExchange Club wants everyone to have a good time, and the moreprepared people are, the easier things go.”

Leggett said even with the Sheriff’s Department, the PoliceDepartment, the Firefighters’ Association, and the Exchange Clubworkers on the scene, officials still need parents to remembertheir responsibilities as well.

“Don’t take your child’s safety for granted,” he said. “We can’tcover every inch of the fairgrounds all the time if we don’t knowwhat to look for. We’re here to help if something happens, butwe’re not here specifically to look for lost children.”

Officials said parents should know the best people to tell theirchildren to ask for help if they become separated at the fair arethe law enforcement officials on the fairgrounds, any of theExchange Club workers in the blue and gold hats and vests, or thoseat Firefighters’ Association booth.

“But have a plan, and stick to it,” said Galey. “Make sure theyknow where to go if something goes wrong. It’s that simple.”