PHOENIX -- It happens to the best parents. Your child wanders off while you are out and about. Panic immediately sets in.
If you happen to be shopping at Fry's, take comfort in the fact that the entire staff is prepared and ready to help you thanks to their Code Adam training.
The Fry's store on 20th Street just north of Highland Avenue invited 3TV's Heidi Goitia to watch their Code Adam drill Tuesday morning.
"Code Adam, created in memory of 6-year-old Adam Walsh, is a powerful search tool for lost and potentially abducted children," according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. "It is one of the country's largest child safety programs and is currently used in tens of thousands of establishments across the nation."
Many organizations have implemented Code Adam. Kroger, the parent company of Fry's, is one of them. That means employees at all of its stores nationwide know exactly what to do should a child become separated from his or her parent.
The Code Adam protocol involves a series of specific steps designed to find missing children as soon as possible.
When a parent or guardian reports a missing child, a store manager gets a description and makes a facility-wide announcement with the information.
Once that happens, employees drop what they are doing and look for the child.
"All associates know where to go and where to start searching in their particular department," explained Joe Kopelic, the loss prevention manager for Fry's.
They also monitor the doors to make sure the child does not leave. If the child is not found within 10 minutes, the police are called. If the child is found with a person who is not a parent or guardian, the goal is to keep them in the store as long as possible without endangering the child.
"Law enforcement has instructed us over the years that the safest thing to do is try to delay that person's egress and not try to technically stop them," Kopelic said. "It might cause more harm to the child and anybody involved."
Kopelic said one of his stores implemented Code Adam a couple of weeks ago for a real-life situation in which a boy wandered away from his mom. "All of our associates, I'm happy to say, reacted perfectly," he said. "They found the boy and brought him up front to an elated mother. … All was good."
Elapsed time? Three minutes. Probably the longest three minutes of his mother's life.
"We owe it to our customers to make sure that they're safe in our stores," Kopelic told Goitia.
Stores that take part in the Code Adam program have a blue decal with the Code Adam logo on the front door or window.
Adam Walsh, for whom Code Adam is named, vanished in July 1981 while with his mother at a department store near their home. He was found dead more than two weeks later. Adam's father became a vocal advocate for victims' rights. He also created and hosted the TV show "America's Most Wanted," which ran for nearly 25 years.
To learn more about Code Adam, call 1-800-THE-LOST® (1-800-843-5678) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.