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Teaching Children 9-1-1 Skills

April 16, 2019 3 min read

Emergencies can happen to anyone, anywhere. Preparing your children to act appropriately during an emergency is just as important as preparing yourself. One of the things that you can teach your children at a young age, is how to use 9-1-1. 9-1-1 is the standard number to reach an emergency dispatcher. It is estimated that this number will work from any phone (with battery power) in 98% of the US and Canada. Double check that this is the correct number to call during an emergency for your area.

By teaching your children how to use this number to access help, they could one day save your life. Several recordings of children calling 911 for a parent have gone viral, showing that even young children can help when an emergency happens. However, it is important to teach our children how and when to make the call.

When to Call: First teach your children what an emergency is. It helps to ask questions such as “if our house was on fire, what should you do?” or “what would you do if someone was trying to break through the door?” These questions will help to identify what an emergency would be, and if it’s appropriate to call. For younger children, you may need to teach them that when you call 9-1-1, it reaches the firemen, police, and the paramedics (ambulance). These men and women can help you and not be afraid of them. When you are out and about, point out and identify those in uniform and even wave “hello” to help ease children’s fears.

You also need to discuss with your children when NOT to call. A lost puppy or a scraped knee are not an emergency. Teach them also not to call just for fun. It could delay the police getting to a real emergency to help someone.

How to Call: Most children pick up quickly on how to use the phone. Without dialing, teach them where the emergency button is on your cell phone, as well as where the 9-1-1 buttons are. Remember to say “nine-one-one” and not “nine-eleven” since children may look for the “eleven” button. It can help to have them practice calling a friend or family member so they can get some experience calling someone. They could even practice answering the questions that will be asked.

  • “Where are you calling from?” or “What is the address?” – Most cities have enhanced 9-1-1 that actually produces an address when you call, but it’s not always accurate. Work with your kids on memorizing their address, including apartment number, if needed.
  • “What type of emergency is this?” – This question will tell the dispatcher which unit to send.
  • “Who needs help?” – This should be easy for the children, but walk through and practice anyways.
  • “Is the person awake and breathing?” – Children can put their cheeks against the victim's nose and mouth to feel any breath if the person is unconscious.
Don’t Hang Up!: In addition to practicing the questions, teach your children not to hang up on dispatch. They may miss an important instruction. They may be directed to put any pets away, to unlock the door, or even how to do first aid. The dispatcher is also trained to help keep them calm so they can help as much as possible. The best thing they can do is stay on the phone with the dispatcher. Remember, children are braver and smarter than you think. By role playing and teaching them young, they could help in an emergency situation. Calling 9-1-1 can be scary but is such a simple way to get help.