Teaching Your Child to Dial 911

Parenting comes with certain responsibilities. Key among them is helping your child to have the skills needed when dealing with whatever challenges life presents. Talking about the value of 911 in times of crisis is a simple yet very important lesson that you can share with your child.

Failing to teach children when to call and how to use 911 can have negative consequences during an emergency. We always see on the news children saving lives by calling emergency response when a grandparent, parent, or sibling collapses. Children have an important role in such situation, thus they need to be taught when to call and how to use 911.

Talk about what constitutes an emergency

Children need specifics on what constitutes an emergency. You can start discussing with your child what an emergency is and what he or she should do if one happens by asking such questions as "What would you do if you saw a stranger trying to break in our house?" or "What would you do if your brother fell in the stairs?"

You can also initiate role playing to address a number of emergency scenarios. This can make your child calm and confident when the time comes to handle tense and difficult situations. Additionally, talk about the different emergency workers in your community – doctors, paramedics, firefighters, police officers – and what they do to help people in an emergency. This will give your child a clear picture of who can help in times of crisis.

Teach when to contact 911

You have to make your child understand that it is a crime in some places to prank-call 911. While many people joke around with the emergency number, others accidentally press the emergency button on their mobile phones. Many others call 911 for non-emergency situations.

You should teach your child when to dial 911. A house intruder, a shooting, a fire, or an unconscious family member would require calling the number. A minor bruise, a broken window, or a lost pet would not. Make sure that he or she understands that unnecessary 911 calls can cause a delay in response to true emergencies.

Still, your child should always make a 911 call if he or she is not sure of what is happening and there is no adult around to ask. It is always better to be safe than sorry.

Teach how to use the service

The operator will ask your child to provide your home address and phone number as a confirmation. Make sure that your child memorizes this information so time is not wasted deploying emergency people to the wrong address. Walk the child through some questions the 911 operator will ask, such as the type of emergency, who needs help, and whether the person is awake and breathing.

Explain that it is normal to be frightened when in an emergency, but emphasize that he or she must be calm. Also, tell your child that he or she should not hang up until the operator says it is OK. Otherwise vital information or instructions could be missed. Finally, tell your child that it is ok to trust 911 operators.