EDISON, N.J. (FNS) -- ShopRite Supermarkets here and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children have launched a program to protect children from kidnappers by helping to locate lost children within their stores.
The program, called Code Adam, calls for store employees to establish an organized plan of action to implement when a child gets separated from his or her parent while shopping.
The program is getting support from the Washington-based Food Marketing Institute, which has promoted the program at some of its largest meetings and events.
MaryAnn House, director of loss-prevention services at the FMI, said since supermarkets see many customers they are natural places for programs to help locate lost children. House said it's an extension of advertising missing children on milk cartons.
"We can target so many people," House said. "We just thought it was a great opportunity."
House said some smaller independent stores also implemented Code Adam and some bigger companies, such as Publix Super Markets, Lakeland, Fla., have expressed interest.
Code Adam is easy to maintain and implement, said Laura McCafferty, spokeswoman for ShopRite.
She said each store developed its own protocol. If a shopper reports a lost child, the employee who receives the news makes an announcement in the store that a Code Adam is under way and gives a brief description of the child. Employees are assigned different tasks. The manager begins to watch the front door and others search different parts of the store, such as bathrooms and storage spaces. If the child isn't found within 10 minutes, the police are called.
"It gives the store's employees a very specific protocol to follow," said McCafferty. "What you don't have is 50 people going about it haphazardly."
To start the program, ShopRite held training sessions for store managers and other supervisors. The company also produced a video to show employees, as well as posters for break rooms and brochures to be displayed in all 190 stores.
McCafferty said the expense was less than $15,000 and will cost very little to maintain.
Peter Banks, director of training and outreach at the Center for Missing and Exploited Children, said Code Adam is important because when a child is kidnapped, time is the biggest enemy. Studies show 74% of children who were kidnapped and murdered were killed in the first three hours after being taken.
The Center for Missing and Exploited Children provides training for companies implementing Code Adam. The program was developed by a Wal-Mart employee and is named after Adam Walsh, who was murdered in 1981 after being kidnapped from a Sears store, Banks said.