What would you say to children if they get lost on a day trip?

>>  Sunday, April 27, 2014

The question "What would you say to brownies if they get lost on a trip to London?" was recently posed in a Guiders forum.

When we have taken our Brownies to London we always put a wristband on them.  It has the name of our Leader In Charge on it and our Brownie Unit mobile phone number on it.

I have been looking at a type of wristband called Infoband that you can buy.  These are reusable bands:

They are made for children but I have brownie sized wrists and there was room enough for me, so they will fit most children I think.

The clever part is in the way it closes, it makes them fully adjustable and reusable.  For Guiding this is a bonus as they could be a legitimate unit purchase to be reused on many trips.  Just give them out at the start and collect them in at the end.    I found that I could not undo it with one hand once I had it on, so a child could not take it off themselves. 

Write the unit name and emergency contact number (or parent name and number if it is for family use) on the strap. Never write the child's name on it.  This would make it much easier for a stranger to 'befriend' a lone child and lead them into a false sense of security.

I was looking at the more girly options as I was looking for Rainbow and Brownie Units but there are many designs for boys too.
Tagging up a child is one thing, but they have to know what to do it they find themselves alone or lost.  The set of rules I gave to Cog and I stick by are:

1) don't panic
2) stand still, chances are your leader or parents aren't far away and will come to you quickly.
3) if definitely alone ask someone in uniform for help, preferably Police but transport worker if at a station.
4) if you can't see a policemen, go into a shop and ask for help.
5) if there are no uniforms, no shops, ask a lady with children to help you.
6) remember my phone number is on your wrist, ask them to call it.
7) if on a tube, get off at the next stop and stand at the wall, I will come to you.  Ask a transport worker (uniform) on the platform for help.
8) if you are on a tube station alone and we are on the train, stay where you are, stand still at the wall, we will come back to you.

Other tips for Leaders:

Make sure every girl has your details on them - wristbands are ideal, or a tied on label, don't rely on stickers that peel off jumpers and lose ink in the wet.

Make sure your girls know their rules about what they must do if they find themselves alone or lost. Remember to reassure them that whilst they need to know what to do, it is highly unlikely to happen and shouldn't worry about it.

Get permission from parents and take a photo on your phone of each girl on the day, this will help you if you need to show it to someone and it can also be transferred electronically for police distribution if needed.

Get your girls to wear something distinctive, bright neckers, flowers in their hair, same coloured caps, something to help you identify them in a crowd.

Have a high adult to child ratio for very busy places like the tube, 1 to 2 is fantastic if you can get enough adults.

Allocate children to adults so each adult knows exactly who they are watching whilst on the move.

Count, count, then count again!

When walking in a group have one adult responsible for being at the back, try to ensure you don't get gaps and the person at the front should stop occasionally to allow a 'regroup'.

When getting on and off the tube or trains have one adult allocated to be last off platform and last off train.

When your group gets off a tube or train, all walk to the wall and stand still until the initial rush has died down, head count and group walk to the barriers.  It is much less stress if you don't try to move with the initial train rush, even in rush hour there is a minor lull between trains.

This seems like a lot of things but it's not as hard as it sounds, mostly it's just common sense and you will find it happens as a matter of course. 

When we went to the Jubilee we couldn't take many adults with us because of the rules for the enclosure, but it meant when we walked down the Mall we really would find it hard as the crowd started to surge. 

We made the most of our Young Leaders and 'allocated' the Guides to them whilst we leaders had the Brownies and over all responsibility for all.

I spoke to a wonderful Scouter on the phone just before we walked down the Mall at the front of the procession, with 250,000 other people behind us. He said "Put all your older ones around the outside and walk as a box.  As the crowd start to run from behind close ranks and they will run around you and not split you up."  Clever man, he was right and that box formation kept us together in the crush.

We didn't lose anyone, but I did see a very pale looking brown owl that had lost a girl, it does happen.  I'm sure she will have had her girl labelled up and there were so many police around that day no child could be lost for long but I think the labelling is key to a quick reunion.



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