Sent to us by Paul Taylor of BabysittingJobs.com
Preparing your child to act calmly under unthinkable circumstances is a scary and disheartening responsibility, but it is an essential one. Ensuring that your little ones are equipped to properly handle an emergency situation at a young age gives them the ability to reach out for assistance when they need it most, even when you’re not available to point them in the right direction. Teaching small children how to reach emergency services is less of a practical challenge and more of an emotional one, though there are some ways to simplify the process even further to make sure that they gain this much-needed skill.
Work on Critical Information
Emergency dispatchers can trace a call to determine a child’s location if they’re too shaken up to provide their address or aren’t quite sure what it is. Knowing their full names, your name, their address and telephone number makes the dispatcher’s job much easier. If your household is among the increasing number of American families that don’t maintain landline telephones, you’ll also want to make sure that your child knows how to turn on a cell phone and that he’s confident entering the three digits before connecting.
Talk About What 911 is For
Explaining to your child what 911 services are for helps him understand that dialing the number will summon help from police, firefighters and paramedics if he’s in trouble. Talking about what sorts of situations would warrant a call to 911 and how the emergency responders can help him when there’s an emergency lets him know that there is help just around the corner if he needs it, and that all he has to do is dial three numbers to get help if there’s no conscious or capable adult in the house.
Talk About Emergency Workers
Kids need to know who to expect when they call 911 and that it’s okay for them to come into the house if an adult is incapacitated and can’t let them in. This is especially important if you’re also working on the concept of “stranger danger.” When your child is in the process of learning that some strangers can be dangerous and he shouldn’t talk to them, the idea of a large group of strangers coming into your home can be terrifying. This conversation is also a good excuse to discuss the role that emergency workers play in society, and what each uniform or title means.
Discuss Accidental Dials
While it is possible for kids to accidentally dial 911 on a landline phone, it’s more likely to happen when they’re playing with a cell phone that has an emergency dial feature. Kids who understand how important it is to only call 911 during an emergency may panic and hang up, which forces the dispatcher to call back or send help to ensure that there is no emergency in your area. Make sure that your little one knows that he should stay on the line and explain to the person who answers that he made a mistake and that there is no emergency.
What is an Emergency?
In a small child’s mind, the concept of “emergency” can be rather vague. Little ones need to understand the difference between a real emergency and merely an unpleasant situation to avoid tying up the time and efforts of a dispatcher who may be delaying an actual emergency to handle the call. Kids should be taught that a lost dog, missing toy or sibling altercation are not emergencies. Working on understanding what types of situations warrant attention from emergency service responders and which ones need to be handled by an adult at home can help to prevent unnecessary calls that waste resources because children are confused about the role of 911 in their lives.
Some Jokes Aren’t Funny
For the most part, prank calls have gone the way of the dinosaur with the advent of private-call blocking and caller ID. To ensure that your child never decides to explore the concept of a prank call by dialing emergency services, you should make sure that he understands the danger of taking time and energy away from dispatchers who could be missing an important, legitimate call. Letting your little one know that dialing 911 as a practical joke is never funny and will have severe consequences is an effective way of discouraging the idea before the idea manifests itself and he is tempted to try it out.
When you’re teaching a toddler how to actively dial the numbers that will connect him with emergency services, it’s wise to remove the battery from a cell phone or unplug the line from a landline phone altogether to prevent accidental dials. Remember also that working on mastery of his address and when to call 911 is an ongoing process, not the result of a single conversation.