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Children who are prepared are more confident during emergencies and disasters

Social science research and evidence support the idea that children who have learned about emergency preparedness experience less anxiety during an actual emergency or disaster. Start by teaching children their full name, address, and phone number.

Teaching your child how to use 911 in an emergency could be one of the simplest and most important lessons you’ll ever share. Role-playing is a great way to address various emergency scenarios and give your child the confidence he or she will need to handle them. For younger children, it might also help to talk about who emergency workers are and what kinds of things they do.

Don’t forget: learning what an emergency is goes hand in hand with learning what isn’t. Still, teach your child that if ever in doubt, and there’s no adult around, always make the call. It’s much better to be safe than sorry.

How to Use 911

Although most 911 calls are now traced, it’s still important for your child to have your street address and phone number memorized (write down your phone number, address and basic directions to your house and keep the information next to every phone in the house just in case). Walk him or her through some of the questions the operator will ask, including:

  • Where are you calling from? (Where do you live?)
  • What type of emergency is this?
  • Who needs help?
  • Is the person awake and breathing?

Explain to your child that it’s okay to be frightened in an emergency, but that it’s important to stay calm, speak slowly and give as much detail to the operator as possible. If your child is old enough to understand, also explain that the emergency dispatcher may give first-aid instructions before emergency workers arrive at the scene. Make it clear that your child should not hang up until the person on the other end says it’s OK.

More Safety Tips

  • Explain the importance of pressing the one-key twice instead of looking for a non-existent 11-key.
  • Educate children on the difference between calling 911 and 9/11 (September 11, 2001).
  • Make sure your child understands that calling 911 as a joke is a crime in many places.
  • Make sure your house number is clearly visible from the street so that police, fire, or ambulance workers can easily locate your address.
  • If you live in an apartment building, make sure your child knows the apartment number and floor you live on.
  • If you have an elderly grandparent or a person with a medical condition living in your home, discuss specific emergencies that could occur and how to spot them.
  • Keep a first-aid kit handy and make sure your child and babysitters know where to find it. When your child is old enough, teach him or her basic first aid.
Last updated: 11/4/2014 3:42:36 PM