Life is unpredictable. If there's ever an emergency or disaster and you are away from your child, does he or she know what to say and do? Here are a few tips from the San Mateo County Office of Public Communications 9-1-1 Dispatch Center on teaching your child how to use 9-1-1.
1. It's hard to track down "mommy" and "daddy."
It's never too late to teach your children your first and last name so that they can ask for you by name, not just "mommy" and "daddy."
2. Have your children memorize their home address.
Make sure they can cite the full address, including home number, street and city. Have them memorize your home phone and cell phone numbers as well.
3. Make sure they know the name of their school.
Knowing the name of their school is important, especially for pre-schoolers and children at day care facilities in the event something happens to the provider and/or teacher and a child has to call 9-1-1 for help.
4. Location, location, location!
Explain that knowing where you are is important for the police or an ambulance to get to you for help and that calling from a cell phone doesn't always transmit location to 9-1-1 so help your children be aware of their surroundings and memorize important addresses.
5. Make sure your children understand that calling 9-1-1 as a joke is a crime.
Stress that whenever an unnecessary call is made to 9-1-1, it can delay a response to someone who actually needs it.
6. Tell your children that even though they shouldn't give personal information to strangers, it's OK to trust the 9-1-1 operator.
Walk them through some of the questions the operator will ask, including:
- What's the address?
- What type of emergency is this?
- What is the phone number you're calling from?
- What's your name?
- Tell me exactly what happened.
Take a few practice runs until you're comfortable they have the answers to the first four questions memorized.
7. Always refer to the emergency number as "nine-one-one" not "nine-eleven."
In an emergency, a child may not know how to dial the number correctly because of trying to find the "eleven" button on the phone.
8. Explain what constitutes an emergency.
Emergencies are events such as a fire, an intruder in the home, an unconscious family member — these are all things that would require a call to 9-1-1. A skinned knee, a stolen bicycle, or a lost pet wouldn't. Still, 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.
(Reprinted with permission from the San Mateo County Office of Public Communications 9-1-1 Dispatch Center)