911 for Kids

Teach Your Kids When to Call 911 and What They Should Say

The scariest thing about being a parent is knowing that we won’t be there every second of every day to protect our children.

That makes what we teach them even more important.

We all hope and pray we never have to dial 911. In reality, the majority of us have called for help at least once in our lifetime, and the rest will probably have to call at some point.

We pray even harder that we won’t have to call for a loved one.

It’s important to teach our kids when and how to dial 911 for help.

For those moments we may not be there for, they need to know how to get help.

Teaching them that 911 is not a joke and you don’t call to play pranks is equally important.

Dialing 911 to play a prank or be silly delays life-saving resources away from those who really need it.

It ties up an emergency phone line. In some areas, law enforcement agencies must send an officer or deputy out to check on those that made the call. Even if it was a joke and an adult was able to get to the phone and say everything is okay, it may be policy for a unit to respond.

That takes an officer away from patrolling the streets where he or she could really help someone.

When I first spoke to my daughter about calling 911, she was scared and upset. She was worried something was wrong.

Reassuring her that I was alright, and talking about different emergencies and who would help, eased her mind.

It’s good to be prepared.

Talking to a young child about 911 can be difficult. They aren’t really able to fully understand what an emergency is, because let’s face it, dropping a cup of apple juice is tragic to them.

But you can help them by simplifying things. I was able to get my daughter to explain when she’d need to call 911 by giving her a few instances in which she may need to.

  1. If she couldn’t wake mommy up or mommy was hurt very badly.
  2. If she couldn’t find mommy anywhere. (If I go outside while she’s asleep, I leave arrows leading from her to whatever door she can open to find me.)
  3. If someone is breaking our windows or doors. (She’s only 6, she’s not home alone yet, but this is a big one for kids who stay home alone.)

The simpler you make the situations that apply to your house, the easier it will be for your child to understand. Which makes it easier for them to answer questions the 911 dispatchers will have.

When you call 911, you’ll hear a dispatcher say, “911, what is your emergency?” or something very similar.

It’s important to teach your child to say what’s wrong first. “I can’t wake my mom up.” “My little brother is choking.” “Daddy fell off the ladder while he was hanging Christmas lights.”

Some agencies do not handle police and fire/medical dispatching. If you’re calling for medical help, a dispatcher that only has control over police will have to get information while transferring you to medical dispatchers. They are not hanging up on you or your child, they will be on the line to help relay information and possibly sending law enforcement officers to help, as well.

Questions that will follow are (maybe not in this order, after the address…):

  • What is your address?
  • What is your name?
  • What is your phone number?
  • What is your mommy’s/daddy’s name?
  • Do you know CPR?

I cannot stress enough, how important it is for our children to know their home address. This is so important in so many situations. Even when they are too little to remember all the numbers, help them memorize their street name.

911 dispatchers have a lot of great tools and resources available to help them help us, but there are some things that either won’t come up or just aren’t there. They must verify so many things.

Asking a person in the midst of panic “is 124 Tustin St. your address?” is likely to garner a “YES!” answer, even if that’s not even close to their address. Because when in panic, we aren’t thinking straight, we aren’t hearing straight. We may say yes to anything.

So more often than not, even though a dispatcher sees your address on their screen (IF you are calling from a landline, not a cell phone), they must ask you to say your address.

If your child just can’t remember the house numbers, make sure you get them to remember their street name and city. If emergency personnel can get to the street quickly, there are a number of ways to narrow down the house.

Pinterest has some great ideas on how to teach your kids your address and phone numbers.

I keep a list next to our phones for my daughter.

It has 911 at the top with a picture of a police car, an ambulance, and a fire truck.

Under that is our address. She has this memorized, but in a panic, she may not have her wits about her.

My picture and phone number is next, followed by my husband’s picture and his cell phone number.

The next people to respond to my daughter would be my parents. They are on the list, also.

Our pictures are on the list because when I created it, my daughter knew her letters but didn’t know how to read yet, so just typing mom, dad, grandma, papa wouldn’t have been overly helpful.

We must make sure our kids know their names and our names. 911 dispatchers are going to ask this, anyone who is there to help our kids if they are lost or hurt is going to ask for names.

First and last!

Your phone number. The one you can usually be reached on any time of day. For us, that’s my cell phone number. I’m the one who stays home with the kids, I’ll be the first on the list to respond to the school or a friend’s house, where ever. It’s my number they need to memorize first.

As far as 911 goes, the dispatcher will see the phone number your child is calling from. They will still ask your child to repeat it, but it’s not as crucial as your address.

Kids will get nervous. They will be scared. But the more we talk about emergencies and how to handle things, the more prepared they’ll be. They’ll be able to help you, if you ever need it.

The best thing you can do for them to protect them when you can’t be around, is to prepare them.

It’s a scary thought, not one many of us like to think about or discuss. But it’s necessary.

When I did my student-teaching several years ago, I was really shocked at how many 10-year-olds I had that didn’t know their parents’ first names. Or the street they lived on. This information is HUGE for safety!

I talk about emergencies and what to do at least once a week with my 6-year-old. I ask her simple what-would-you-do kind of questions. I ask her to tell me our address every few days, and to describe the outside of it. We are still working on our phone number.

And kids these days are better than their parents at working iPads and iPhones and Galaxies and all that jazz!

I remind my daughter that if she ever has to, to call 911 from our house phone (we go over where they all are weekly, also), then grab my cell phone and call daddy. If daddy doesn’t answer, she knows who is next.

Have a plan, prepare your kids. Teach them 911 is not a game, it’s emergencies only.

How do you all talk to your kids about 911?

Where are all my dispatchers? Any other suggestions?