Children can learn to call 911 from a young age, potentially saving a life by getting help where it’s needed quicker. But children, especially little kids, need to be actively taught how to call for help and then retaught periodically for better retention.
Here are some best practices for how to teach your child to call 911.
Tips for teaching children to call 911 in the case of an emergency
Calling 911 might seem straight-forward, but it can be overwhelming for young children in a stressful emergency situation. When teaching children to call for help, be sure to follow these simple steps:
1. Clearly explain what an emergency is and isn’t
Tell your child that 911 is a special phone number to call when they need help. Give real examples of an actual emergency, such as during a fire, after a car accident, if a family member is having a medical emergency, or if they feel unsafe where they are (e.g. stranger danger).
Also, give examples of when NOT to call 911, such as when they can’t find a toy or when they need help with homework. Emphasize that 911 must never be used for a prank call as this can delay emergency dispatchers and first responders from helping people in a true emergency.
2. Walk through how to use any phones available to your child
It’s a good idea to have your child practice using a cell phone versus a landline. If your cell phone has a security lock, use a simple code that’s easy for your child to remember. However, many phones have an emergency button that can bypass a locked screen. Consider keeping a visual step-by-step guide by your phone or in a designated area if you don’t have a landline.
3. Go over important information
Teach your child what personal information they’ll need to provide to the call taker. This includes your home address, first and last names of each family member and the location of the emergency.
You can also create an emergency profile at Smart911 (available in certain areas) that allows emergency dispatchers to see your home address, the layout of your home, existing medical conditions and any other helpful information you choose to provide. This type of service can be particularly beneficial for families with younger children or those with disabilities that might impact their ability to communicate pertinent information under stress.
4. Practice, practice, practice
The best way to practice is to role play with your child to prepare them for different emergency situations. Consider using an app to simulate calling 911 (never make an actual call to 911 when practicing), so children can safely rehearse calling for help and relaying important details. For example, the Kid’s Practice 911 Dialer app is available through the Center for Childhood Safety.
For more tips related making an emergency call, check out our blog about best practices for calling 911 for individuals of all ages.