1. Only Call 911 In An Emergency
First things first, calling 911 is only for an emergency and that should be your initial discussion with your kids. Talk with them about what a true emergency is, and the difference between something serious and not so serious. Discuss scenarios that involve mommy or daddy not moving, waking up, or getting hurt. It’s also a good time to bring up other dangerous situations like home invasions or even domestic violence. It may be difficult to talk about, but it could be the difference between life and death.
Let your children know how serious it is to call 911, and only to do it when absolutely necessary. Emergency dispatchers receive many hang up, notably after local schools do emergency presentations. Children are curious and want to know if 911 “really works.” However let your kids know that emergency dispatchers have very important jobs, and hangup calls take them away from helping other people.
Did you also know that 911 can be dialed from anywhere and with any cell device so long as it has power? Parents have been known to give their kids old cell phones to play with, and if it’s been powered on they may end up calling 911. Even if a phone if disconnected from cell service, or can’t make outgoing calls, it can always call 911.
2. Teach Them HOW To Call 911
Whether its on a cell phone or a land line, show your kids how to dial 911. Even if your cell phone has a password or fingerprint ID, your children can still dial 911 from the locked screen. Show them how to dial and wait on the line to speak to a dispatcher.
Many people believe if they call 911 and disconnect, it will give an exact location of where they are. That is absolutely not true, and a myth often perpetuated by watching a lot of TV. Calling and hanging up might give an estimated latitude and longitude of an address, but it’s not exact. First responders then have to go knocking on every door to find out who called, wasting vital minutes in saving a life.
3. Make Sure Your Kids Know Their Address And Phone Number
Much like real estate, location, location, location, is the most important information to give. Every child should know two things, address and phone number. They don’t even need to memorize them- you can keep a post-it note with the phone number and address by the phone. If you don’t have a land line, put it on the fridge and show the child where it is at all times. Even young children who cannot read yet can benefit from this information. If your kids are learning their numbers and letters, they can most likely give the dispatcher enough information from your note to help speed them to your home.
Aside from those two items, make a note for the child to tell the dispatcher what is happening or has happened (i.e. my mommy fell down the stairs and won’t get up). Additionally, it wouldn’t hurt to give a description of the house (color, garage, vehicles in the driveway, etc.) so first responders can have even more information. If children call 911 and give the address and then disconnect, first responders can at least get to that location no matter what. Phone number is just as important because if for some reason the child disconnects, the dispatcher can make an attempt to call back. It couldn’t hurt to inquire at your local police/Sheriff’s department to find out if their 911 call center has caller ID.
4. Prepare Your Children For Talking To A Dispatcher And Emergency Responder
From a young age, we teach our children not to talk to strangers. However, in an emergency situation it is of utmost importance they do just that. Depending on the call center, emergency dispatchers must follow certain protocols. Sometimes those involve asking very specific questions, and then giving commands. Teach your children that it’s ok to give information to the dispatcher and then follow their directions. It could be life saving! When the first responders arrive, it’s ok to let them in and begin treated the injured person.
5. Show Your Kids What A First Responder Looks Like
It’s always important that children don’t answer the door for just anyone. First responders will always announce themselves and it’s important that they know and understand its okay to open the door for first responders. If possible, have them look out a window or leave a stool by the door so they can use the peep hole. When you’re out and about and see any first responder, point them out and describe their uniform. Go talk to them, google the local uniform and put that on the note with the important information to follow that goes on the fridge. It may even be a good idea to take a picture with them so the child knows, “Hey, I have a picture with someone with the same uniform, it’s safe to let them in.”
As a mom, it’s difficult to think of my daughter needing to call 911 on my behalf. However, the seriousness of it outweighs my discomfort and I hope it’s the same for you. I pray this information is helpful in teaching your kids how to save a life!