Originally published in May 2014. Updated in October 2015 and again in May 2016.
What’s in your CPST kit? It’s a popular question that Child Passenger Safety Technicians ask one another, so thought I would go through a tour of what I carry in my tech bag. A little background: I’ve been a CPST since 2010, and I’m about to be confirmed as an Instructor. I work for the fire department and I do a couple dozen checks a month. I have a storage trailer that contains my large backup of supplies, but here is what is in the bag that lives in my trunk and travels with me to every check.
Sometimes you need a pool noodle or a tightly rolled towel to achieve the correct angle of a rear facing car seat. It can be tricky to find pool noodles in Colorado in December, so I typically stock up during the summer months to last through the year. Look for noodles that have a small hole in the middle, or even better; no hole at all. They aren’t as squishy and are much easier to work with. A full length pool noodle doesn’t fit very nicely in my bag, so I cut them in thirds first. This works out nicely because they end up about 13″ section and I can trim for a perfect fit when I need one.
Huggable Images Newborn Doll
Huggable Images makes safety training dolls specifically for CPS. They have sizes ranging from preemie – 8 years old and they are really fantastic. The newborn doll is weighted to 7 lbs, measures 17″ long and has accurate proportions. He is the perfect tool for teaching expectant parents how to properly buckle their baby. The torso is also somewhat rigid, which is helpful for teaching the pinch test. You can find an overview of all their dolls in our full review here.
Knuckle Saver (or other threading tool)
Before I became a CPST I saw a product that assisted in threading the seat belt through the car seat belt path. Had I known the path that life would lead me down, I would have ordered half a dozen on the spot! By the time I was going through my certification, that product was nowhere to be found.
Over the years I have searched high and low for a similar product but found nothing….until I found the Knuckle Saver.
The Knuckle Saver makes setting up a seat belt installation so much easier! Simply clip the Knuckle Saver onto the “male” end of the seat belt and route the narrow, semi-rigid Knuckle Saver through the car seat’s belt path. Grab the strap on the other side of the belt path to pull it the rest of the way through, unclip the Knuckle Saver from the latch plate, buckle the seat belt in and voila! Continue with the installation as usual, but with intact, scrape-free hands!
Seat Check Forms
Don’t skip the paperwork! Seat check forms are important for your records; and they also help serve as a checklist so you don’t forget to cover anything important during a check. Need a form? Here are a few options:
- Safe Kids Form – you must add your own liability waiver, but you can also customize with your organization’s logo.
- Safety Belt Safe Form – this form is lengthy, but comprehensive.
Your state or coalition may have their own forms available as well. Check with your organization for policies regarding storage of completed check forms and data reporting.
This seems silly to list, but it’s really an invaluable tool for me as a CPST. I use the Kindle app to store car seat manuals (downloaded from the car seat manufacturer’s website), access NHTSA’s website to look up recalls, and take photos of non typical situations. I’ve also called fellow technicians for advice with difficult seat checks more than a few times: know your resources and don’t be afraid to use them!
Every Child Passenger Safety Technician should have a LATCH manual. I happen to have four, but I like to be prepared. The first half of the LATCH manual explains just about everything you need to know about how the LATCH system was developed and how it is meant to be used. The second half contains absolutely invaluable appendices detailing the locations of lower anchors and top tethers by vehicle, part numbers for retrofitting top tether anchors, rules about center lower anchor use, and so much more. You need one. Possibly two. Just in case your one year old decides to use one for a paper shredding party. Or zombies. Just be prepared. Plus, if you order three, you get a discount! Who doesn’t love a discount? You can find them at Safe Ride News.
I used to have two of these. One disappeared somewhere along the way, probably thanks to one of my kids. I do a lot of checks with expectant parents, and I use this to demonstrate the proper way to use a rolled up receiving blanket for body support if their seat doesn’t come with a newborn insert.
- Tape measure and scale: used to measure kids when their caregiver is unsure of their weight and height.
- Locking clips and a belt shortening clip for vehicles that may not have locking seat belts.
- Threading tool: the handy little gadget pictured above came from a Baby Trend car seat, it’s just a flat piece of plastic but it’s great for helping shove a harness strap through a tight slot. Our friends at Knuckle Saver make one as well.
- TurboBooster screws: many parents forget to install the screws that came with their Graco TurboBooster. I called Graco and asked for a few spares and to give to parents that have forgotten. I also carry a screwdriver, which didn’t make it into the picture.
- Scissors and duct tape: these both are used often for trimming and/or taping pool noodles, removing tags from brand new seats, etc.
Other Items to Consider
- Stickers or other small goodies to give to older kids.
- Recall list. A couple of common ones we use are from Safety Belt Safe here or NHTSA here.
- Sunscreen, especially for long outdoor check events!
- Gloves and hand sanitizer – I always carry both of these, usually in my pocket.
- CPST certification card. I’ve done hundreds of seat checks and never been carded, but I always encourage parents to ask if their CPST is currently certified! Find instructions here for how to print your card.
Win Your Own Knuckle Saver!
We know how hard Child Passenger Safety Technicians work and we are celebrating CPST Month with some giveaways just for CPSTs. Enter below to win one of TEN! Knuckle Saver threading tools! You must be a currently certified U.S. Child Passenger Safety Technician to enter. Knuckle Saver did not sponsor this giveaway or compensate CSFTL for this post. Please read the Giveaway Terms and Conditions before entering.