News

A CPS Team’s NDCF Journey Continues

Part 4 of a 4-part series. This article appeared as an editorial by Denise Donaldson and is followed by links to part 1, 2, and 3 of this series, information about the steps she took to prepare her checkup-event team and use the NDCF at checkup events.

This article originated in the July/August 2022 issue of Safe Ride News.

Articles in a few of the past SRN issues have covered editor Denise Donaldson’s Seattle-area team as it transitioned to using the National Digital Car Seat Check Form (NDCF). This report provides an update on hardware and basic troubleshooting.

During 2022, the Car Safe Kids team successfully transitioned to using the NDCF, with several hospital events and virtual checks now recorded using this digital platform. The generally smooth transition was partially thanks to the preparation the team undertook in the months before implementation, as described in earlier SRN reports.

But a spirit of cooperation was key. The CPSTs had a great attitude from the beginning. It probably helped that their training included not just how to use the NDCF, but why it’s advantageous to do so (for instance, to build a data dashboard). But one takeaway is don’t assume a team will be unwilling to change. The general vibe I got from the team was “it’s about time.”

Buy-in from the top also proved to be helpful. By coincidence, our Washington state CPS coordinator, Cesi Velez, committed state support to the digital platform this year, as well. Among the NDCF’s many advantages, its use statewide will vastly simplify the process of collecting quarterly activity data. This will be a win not only for the coordinator and her regional helpers but also for every CPST logging activity in the state.

Before the date in 2022 when Washington state techs would be urged—but not required—to use the NDCF, Velez arranged for training webinars and developed other support materials. She wisely made use of the free resources that are available, including coordinating with the NDCF’s field training coordinator, Jennifer Booge, to deliver the series of training webinars. All Velez had to do was schedule and promote them, and the professionals on the NDCF Team handled the rest. (Any state or agency can take advantage of this free training option by contacting Booge at [email protected], whether it is committed to transitioning to the NDCF or simply wants to explore options.)

Like a handful of other states, Washington has provided hardware for active CPSTs and regional teams to support statewide use of the NDCF. This overcomes the equipment hurdle some CPTS face, as well as the understandable reluctance some feel about using their personal devices for work activities. Over the summer, iPad Mini tablets with heavy-duty cases were issued to the state’s techs who signed a user agreement, and agency leads were given a supply, as well.

Prior to this, Car Safe Kids techs had been using their own devices to enter 2022 checkup data—some using smartphones or tablets car-side and others using desktop computers to enter data after the fact. Many have now taken advantage of the state-issued tablets. In particular, those formerly using a smartphone or desktop computer appreciate having a device with an ample screen that is also portable. Now, checkup entry is more likely to be completed during or right after the check because a tablet is more car-side-friendly.

The tablets were generally easy to set up, and the state provided a user handbook (hardcopy and electronic) to facilitate the use of both the device and the NDCF. (Others are welcome to use this resource when developing their own support document; email [email protected].)

We did, however, encounter a few issues. Even with a screen cover, glare on a very sunny day made using the iPad Minis (and, I’d venture to guess, most electronic devices) difficult or impossible. Even worse, if devices got overheated, as some of ours did on a very warm day, they shut down.

Fortunately for us, most of our events are held under cover—and, in Seattle, few days are sunny enough to cause this problem—so we can work around these challenges. (And we’ll always have hard copies of the form on hand as backup.) For those in hotter climates, this issue is another reason it’s ideal to provide some shade at checkup events.

Aside from these tablet-related issues, team members struggle at times with various problems using the NDCF app. Because we don’t have access to WiFi in the garage settings where we work, the app is the format of choice. But, according to the NDCF Team, our issues are common and usually easily solved. See below for a rundown of those problems and solutions.


Troubleshooting the NDCF App

According to the NDCF Team, the following app issues are some of the most common reasons that NDCF users contact them. Keep these tips handy, as most provide easy fixes. However, the NDCF Team is available to help if app problems persist and for any other issue related to the NDCF. Use any of these options: Visit carseatcheckform.org (request support under Contact Us), email [email protected], or call 844-573-6531.

  • Can’t log in to the NDCF app the first time? The beauty of the app is that no data connection (like WiFi) is needed, except when downloading the app from your device’s app store and during the initial login. Advise techs to download the app and do an initial login before arriving at the checkup location. If they are car-side and can’t log in, they’ll need to wait until they have a data connection to log in for the first time. (Note: We have successfully connected to a cell phone hot spot to overcome this issue while at a car seat check.)
  • Suddenly can’t access the NDCF app? If you have been using the app successfully and suddenly are locked out, it might be because you have recently recertified. The certification system isn’t tied to the NDCF system, so, as CPSTs must do when setting up an NDCF account initially, they must supply the NDCF with an electronic copy of their new certification card each time they recertify. To do this, log into your account at www.carseatcheckform.org and select Update Profile from My Account.
  • Checks don’t appear in your raw data? Although entries can be logged into the app in locations with no data connection, a final step for each check is to select “Submit” from the app’s homepage once a link to WiFi (or other data connection) has been reestablished. The raw data should appear in your account as soon as you have successfully submitted the check.
  • App won’t allow you to submit a check? Sometimes an error message comes up when trying to use the app’s submit button. The NDCF Team says this can occur for a variety of reasons, which vary based on the network and device used. Often, a simple solution is to log out of the app, log back in, and then push “Submit.” In most cases, this “log out/log in” approach will clear the problem (much like rebooting a glitchy computer). Since app issues can arise when a person stays logged in for a long period, it’s a good idea to log out when you are done using the app for a while. (You will not lose your data; if you need to wait to submit checks, the data will still be there when you log back in.)