I've mentioned here a few times that Billy has a problem with wandering away from us and getting into trouble. We employ a number of solutions to help at home (hook and eye latches at 5 feet on the screen door on the front, multiple door locking mechanisms on the main door itself, and using our alarm's "Stay Instant" feature), and thus we feel relatively confident we won't have any incidents at home under normal conditions. But sometimes we have to leave the house for something other than school (who uses constant supervision and a door wedge at roughly 4-5 feet high to make the door difficult for children to open (adults have no trouble)) and as Billy gets older, carrying him everywhere isn't a useful strategy, or practical.
Now, I'll say this, and you're probably thinking that given 3 seconds with your back turned, the kid will be halfway to the nearest busy street crossing. No, that'd be easy, because it'd be predictable. Wandering isn't driven by just walking aimlessly – it's done with a purpose, and a goal. Normal kids would communicate that goal to parents, and you'd either at least be aware of what the plan is, and have a chance to join them, let them go, or stop them. Many times, Billy cannot (or does not see the need to) notify us of what he wants or what he is planning. Billy knows quite well what his plans are and what his goal is, he just doesn't share it with us before silently disappearing. You'll turn your back to do something and 9 times out of 10, he's still right where you left him, counting things, or playing in the rocks, or whatever it is he's doing at the time. It's that 10th time that he has found something more interesting, and has no reason to communicate it.
So in comes the Mommy I'm Here CL305. We have tested it this weekend, and it seems like it's useful enough to do what we want to do.
The basics are this:
Child wears a teddy bear with a radio transponder and a 90dB siren in it. It can receive signals from your parent remote from up to 150 feet.
You wear/carry/whatever a parent remote, which receives signals from the transponder, and warns you when the received signal level from the bear is weak – corresponding to roughly 20-40 feet of distance in open space. (this is affected by things like people in between you and the child, or metal furnishings (metal folding chairs, cars, grocery store racks, etc)
When this threshold is crossed (it seems like the bear pings at about once a second, and missing two pings seems to be the threshold) your parent remote will begin chirping loudly (the volume and sound is similar to an alarm clock).
At any time, the parent can press and hold a button on the remote to sound the child's alarm, which is roughly the sound of a smoke detector. It's very loud, and anyone seeing a child running making that sound is very likely to try to intervene, or at least won't forget which direction the child just ran in. When the parent releases the button, the sound stops immediately.
This product is much cheaper than many on the market (though many of the more expensive ones are GPS/cellular based, or are literally run by LoJack and based on the same RDF technology as the stolen car trackers. so there's a reason for the price discrepancy) and involves no subscription fee, and my personal favorite – does not require assistance from law enforcement to use. It does have the downside of having to have been set up and turned on when the kid wanders, but because you're notified when the kid gets about 20 feet away, if you do this step, you won't have to worry about GPS signals. You can't just have it on and then turn on your remote when you want to find the kid, as they pair when first turned on, so your remote has to be turned on with the child nearby in order to work.
It does what it says on the tin, and while there are circumstances where the parent alarm can sound at perfectly benign distances, they generally worked as advertised, and I'm glad to have another tool in our toolbox.
So here's some pictures of Billy's sensory tent, and just a goofy picture of him.