911 – Teaching Your Child How to Use

Arming your kids with the skills to handle the obstacles life presents is one of the challenges of being a parent. How to use 911 in an emergency could be one of the most important and simplest lessons you’ll ever teach them.

  • Talking With Kids About 911

For all types of emergencies 911 is a central number. An emergency dispatch operator quickly takes information from the caller and puts him in direct contact with whatever emergency personnel are needed, thus making response time quicker.

According to the National Emergency Number Association, 911 covers nearly all of the population of the United States, but go online or check your phone book to be sure that 911 is the emergency number to use in your area.

Everyone needs to know about calling 911 in an emergency, but kids also need to know the specifics about what an emergency is.

For younger children, it might also help to talk about who the emergency workers are in your community, firefighters, paramedics, police officers, doctors, nurses, and so on, and what kinds of things they do to help people who are in trouble. This will clarify, who can help, not only what types of emergencies can occur.

  • When to Call 911

Part of understanding what is an emergency is knowing what is not. A fire, an intruder in the home, an unconscious family member — these are all things that would require a call to 911. Teach your child that if ever in doubt and there’s no adult around to ask, make the call. It’s much better to be safe than sorry.

Make sure your kids understand that calling 911, as a joke is a crime in many places. Some people accidentally push the emergency button on their cell phones; they don’t realize that whenever an unnecessary call is made to 911, it can delay a response to someone who actually needs it.

  • How to Use 911

Although most 911 calls are now traced, it’s still important for your kids to have your phone number and street address memorized. They’ll need to give that information to the operator as a confirmation so time isn’t lost sending emergency workers to the wrong address.

Make sure your kids know that even though they shouldn’t give personal information to strangers, it’s OK to trust the 911 operators. Walk them through some of the questions the operator will ask, including:

  • Where are you calling from? (Where do you live?)
  • What type of emergency is this?
  • Who needs help?
  • Is the person breathing and awake?

Explain that it’s OK to be frightened in an emergency, but it’s important to speak slowly and clearly, stay calm and give as much detail to the 911 operators as possible. If they’re old enough to understand, also explain that the emergency dispatcher may give first-aid instructions before emergency workers arrive at the scene.

Make 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.

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