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Lawyer Says Failed Alarm Resulted In Boy Being Left In Van

On the evening of Tuesday, September 17th around 6 p.m., a woman out walking with her young daughter noticed a 4-year-old boy wandering around the parking lot of a closed Pompano Beach child care center. Seeing that the child was distraught and repeatedly pulling at the facility's locked door, she called out to him. The boy ran to her asking where his mommy was.
 
The boy told the woman he awakened in the center's van, removed his seatbelt and exited the van only to find the center closed for the evening. The woman called 911.
 
"The child was left in a day care van; he got out and was found walking in the parking lot," Broward sheriff's spokeswoman Gina Carter said Tuesday. She added that the boy is in good condition and in the care of family.
 
The family has many questions for the child care center.
 
The Broward Sheriff's Office Special Victims Unit and the Florida Department of Children and Families are both investigating the incident, officials said. Carter said that as of Tuesday no one has been arrested.
 
The facility's lawyer said there may have been trouble with the vehicle's alarm, which is designed to alert a driver of children who may be left behind.
 
"The investigation has not determined exactly how this occurred, but somewhere along the line, the alarm system failed," attorney Guy Fronstin said in an email.
 
Broward County licenses the facility and has reports on file that show the facility passed two inspections in 2013, including its installation of child safety alarms in five vehicles that were tested and verified in June.
 
According to the county's Human Services Department's online report, vehicle inspections were to expire July 27, 2013. The current inspection status is unknown and several local newspapers and TV stations report that Human Service officials have yet to respond to requests for the inspection status of the child care's vehicles.
 
The center "has numerous checks and balances in place to assure the safety of all children … to assure that each child is always accounted for," Fronstin said. "We are fully cooperating in the investigation. Protecting the children is, and always will be, my client's highest priority."
 
Obviously, proper procedures were not followed or the boy would not have been left behind in the van. 
 
While it is possible that the alarm failed, or was disconnected, that is no excuse for failing to notice that a child remains in the vehicle. The alarm sounds when the engine is turned off and the driver must walk to the back of the vehicle to turn it off. This forces the driver to walk through the vehicle, something he should be doing regardless of the presence of an alarm, to see if any children have been left behind.
 
There are other safety precautions that should have been in place to keep a situation like this from occurring. Head counts, check lists of children dropped off or picked up and vehicle inspections for sleeping/hiding/playing children (regardless of whether an alarm is present or not) are standard practices and procedures for child care personnel to insure the safety of the children.
 
Thankfully, this story didn't end in the tragey it could easily have become. Alarms are worthwhile, but they only make a driver do what he should already be doing as a matter of course.
 
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