Teaching Your Child How to Use 911


Many people carry the mindset that an emergency situation will not happen to them, but it is always a better idea to be prepared for an emergency should one occur than to assume nothing monumental will happen. Children also need to be aware of what to do in emergency situations and what qualifies as an emergency in the first place. It is also important to not only identify an emergency but to know what to do in the case one happens.

Step one is to identify what counts as an emergency and what does not. One way to go about this is to explain the different sectors of emergency personnel and what they do to help people in need. Police officers, firefighters, and EMTs all serve in the communities as the emergency personnel children should be familiar with. Following the explanation of these positions, ask a series of questions related to different scenarios to see if your child understands when an officer should be called and when the problem does not require emergency personnel. For instance, ask if an officer is needed if the house is on fire. The child should answer that you need to call a firefighter. Ask if an officer is needed if the dog is lost. The child should say an officer is not needed for that. Continue asking similar questions until you are comfortable that your child understands what is an emergency and what is not.

Step two is to ask your child what they would do if it was an emergency that needs a police officer. Then ask what they would do if they needed a firefighter or had a medical emergency like an unconscious parent. This is where the subject of calling 911 comes up. Teach them about using the phone, what kinds of questions the representative on the line will ask, and how to answer the questions. While discussing 911, let them know there are rules about dialing the number and that people can get in very big trouble for calling the number when it is not an emergency. Also share with them that if they call when it is not an emergency, then that keeps someone who really needs help from getting the help they need. Explain that dialing 911 is a very big deal and should only be done in case of a very serious situation.

Step three is to participate in role play with your child. Some of the best ways to learn are through application and repetition. By having the child pretend to call 911 with you, you are teaching them how to handle an emergency phone call and what kinds of information they’ll need to know when they call. By running through a few examples, your child is better prepared and more equipped to truly handle an emergency situation should one actually occur.

Though emergency situations are thought of as something that could never happen, they do happen on a daily basis. It is best to be prepared and have children prepared to handle an emergency should one occur rather than to not learn about emergencies and panic if one does take place.