June 9, 2013

Teaching your kids about 9-1-1

During your well-child visits, my role and that of the nurses, is to ensure you have the resources you need to create a positive and healthy environment for your child. In addition to encouraging your child to "eat a rainbow" and checking on developmental milestones, we are also concerned with safety.

While you are careful to put medicines and harmful items out of reach, always ensure your child wears the proper safety gear, and that they how to cross the street safely, there is one other safety skill that is often overlooked — how and when to call 9-1-1.

Help your child understand what is an emergency

The first step is to help your child understand what actually constitutes an emergency. This conversation will vary based on age and your child. But helping to differentiate between a true emergency — a family member is unconscious, a fire, an intruder in the home — and a non-emergency situation — a stolen bicycle or a lost pet helps set the stage for what to do in response to those situations.

For older children, you can ask questions like, "What would you do if we had a fire in the house?" or "What would you do if a friend became ill?" Talk through the steps, and for some, role-playing can be an effective way to help children have the confidence to handle the situation

Younger children may benefit from a discussion on who are the emergency workers in your community — police officers, firefighters, doctors, etc. — and what kinds of things they do to help people who need it. This helps illustrate what types of emergencies can occur, but also who they can turn to for help.

While it's important to teach children when to call 9-1-1, it's also important to note that it's better to be safe than sorry. If no adults are around and your child is in doubt, go ahead and call.

What information they need to know

With the more wide-spread use of cell phones, it can be difficult to pinpoint the location from which a 9-1-1 call is being made. Help your children understand that while they should never give out personal information to strangers, it is important to share the information with the 9-1-1 operator.

Questions they will need to be able to answer include:

  1. Where are you calling from?

  2. What type of emergency is it — what is going on?

  3. Who needs help?

  4. Is the person awake and breathing?

Be certain to stress that it is normal to be frightened in an emergency, but it's important to try and remain calm, speak clearly and give as much detail as possible. And make sure your child knows not to hang up the phone until given the "OK" from the operator.

Other safety tips

  • When you refer to 9-1-1, do not refer to it as "9-11" In an emergency, a child may look for an "11" button on the phone.

  • Make sure your house number is clearly visible from the street. If you live in an apartment building, ensure your child knows the apartment number and floor.

  • Keep a list of emergency phone numbers in a clearly visible place for your kids or babysitter.

  • If you have special circumstances in your house, such as an elderly grandparent living with you or a person with epilepsy, help your child understand how to spot certain conditions they may encounter, like a seizure.

  • Ensure you have a fully stocked first-aid kit in an easily accessible place that your children and babysitter know where to find it.

  • When your child is old enough, consider enrolling him or her in a Red Cross class, particularly if they plan to babysit other children, to learn how to administer basic first-aid.

While you can never truly be prepared for an emergency, knowing the basics can help ensure everyone has the confidence to handle the situation.