Teaching Kids About 9-1-1...
of the challenges you have as a parent is to help your child acquire the skills
to work through whatever obstacles life presents. Teaching your child how to use
911 in an emergency could be one of the simplest — and most important —
lessons you'll ever share.
About 911 With Your Child
that many years ago, there was a separate telephone number for each type of
emergency agency. For a fire, you called the fire department number. For a
crime, you called the police. For a medical situation, you phoned the ambulance
1968, the U.S. government worked with the phone company to establish 911 as a
central number for all types of emergencies. An emergency dispatch operator
quickly takes information from the caller and puts the caller in direct contact
with whatever emergency personnel are needed, thus making response time quicker.
to the National Emergency Number Association, 911 covers nearly all of the
population of the United States. Check your phone book to ensure that 911 is the
emergency number you should use in your area.
needs to know about calling 911 in an emergency. But children in particular need
specifics about what an emergency is. Asking your child, "What would you do
if we had a fire in our house?" or "What would you do if you
saw someone trying to break in?" gives you a chance to discuss what
constitutes an emergency and what should be done if one occurs. Role playing is
an especially good way to address various emergency scenarios and give your
child the confidence he or she will need to handle them.
younger children, it might also help to talk about who the emergency workers are
in your community — police officers, firefighters, paramedics, doctors,
nurses, and so on — and what kinds of things they do to help people who are in
trouble. This will paint a clear picture for your little one of not only what
types of emergencies can occur, but also who can help.
to Call 911
what is an emergency goes hand in hand with learning what isn't. A fire, an
intruder in the home, an unconscious family member — these are all things that
would require a call to 911. A skinned knee, a stolen bicycle, or a lost pet
wouldn't. Still, teach your child that if ever in doubt and there's no adult
around to ask to always make the call. It's much better to be safe than sorry.
sure your child understands that calling 911 as a joke is a crime in many
places. In some cities, officials estimate that as much as 75% of the calls made
to 911 are nonemergency calls. These are not all pranks. Some people
accidentally push the emergency button on their cell phones. Others don't
realize that 911 is for true emergencies only. That means it's not for such
things as a flat tire or even about a theft that occurred the week before.
to your child that whenever an unnecessary call is made to 911, it can delay a
response to someone who actually needs it. Most areas now have what is called
enhanced 911, which enables a call to be traced to the location from which it
was made. So if someone dials 911 as a prank, emergency personnel could be
dispatched directly to that location. Not only could this mean life or death for
someone having a real emergency on the other side of town, it also means that
it's very likely the prank caller will be caught and punished.
to Use 911
most 911 calls are now traced, it's still important for your child to have your
street address and phone number memorized. Your child will need to give that
information to the operator as a confirmation so time isn't lost sending
emergency workers to the wrong address.
sure your child knows that even though he or she shouldn't give personal
information to strangers, it's OK to trust the 911 operator. Walk him or her
through some of the questions the operator will ask, including:
Where are you calling
from? (Where do you live?)
What type of emergency
Who needs help?
Is the person awake and
to your child that it's OK to be frightened in an emergency, but that it's
important to stay calm, speak slowly and clearly, and give as much detail to the
911 operator as possible. If your child is old enough to understand, also
explain that the emergency dispatcher may give first-aid instructions before
emergency workers arrive at the scene.
it clear that your child should not hang up until the person on
the other end says it's OK, otherwise important instructions or information
could be missed.
are some additional safety tips to keep in mind:
Always refer to the
emergency number as "nine-one-one" not "nine-eleven." In an
emergency, your child may not know how to dial the number correctly because of
trying to find the "eleven" button on the phone.
Make sure your house
number is clearly visible from the street so that police, fire, or ambulance
workers can easily locate your address.
If you live in an
apartment building, make sure your child knows the apartment number and floor
you live on.
Keep a list of emergency
phone numbers handy near each phone for your children or babysitter. This
should include police, fire, and medical numbers (this is particularly important
if you live in one of the few areas where 911 is not in effect), as well as a
number where you can be reached, such as your cell phone, pager, or work number.
In the confusion of an emergency, calling from a printed list is simpler than
looking in the phone book or figuring out which is the correct speed-dial
number. The list should also include known allergies, especially to any
medication, medical conditions, and insurance information.
If you have special
circumstances in your house, such as an elderly grandparent or a person with a
heart condition, epilepsy, or diabetes living in your home,
prepare your child by discussing specific emergencies that could occur and how
to spot them.