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Teach your child how to make the call to 9-1-1
My past experience as a firefighter/paramedic has taught me many things. I’m able to respond to emergency situations that others would struggle with. I was trained to make split second, life and death decisions (literally). I was thinking the other day while I was working on Android4Autism and something dawned on me.
Many people out there have cut out their landline or house phones in lieu of their cell phone. That’s great and it makes sense. However, in the advent of this gravitation towards new technology, I fear we may have possibly overlooked something very important.
Many of us have stickers or magnets for emergency service numbers like, 9-1-1 here in the States (or at least Ohio) or whatever the emergency numbers are where you live. With that said, how many of you have taught you child how to use your cell phone to dial those number in the event of an emergency? I would guess that at least some of you are thinking, “oh crap, I never thought about that”…..right? I’m guilty as well and that is something I will be correcting in very short order.
New technology presents new problems
Most people are using Android based, touch screen phones or some form of iPhone. There are even still some Blackberries floating around as well. The point is that your child may not be familiar with how to make an emergency call from your particular cell phone. This is something that should be taken very seriously. How many times do you hear on the news about a child dialing 9-1-1 and saving someones life? It happens and I’m sure the people involved are beyond grateful for that.
With all the icons and apps loaded on our phones anymore, not to mention complicated lock screens designed to keep your kids from gaining access to your phone, it’s more important then ever to teach your child how to call for help in the event of an emergency. I realize that it may undermine the purpose of having some of these apps to keep your kids out of your phone but the safety benefit alone, in my opinion, is well worth the sacrifice.
Teach you child how to dial 9-1-1 in the event of an emergency. Many phones will dial 9-1-1 even while locked, so maybe that’s a better option for you show you child. Some phone will allow you add a contact with a custom picture and then create a shortcut for your home screen. This would be a good idea as well. Make the picture a easily recognizable emergency symbol, like a red cross, fire helmet or police car.
Many locations have a one stop shop by simply dialing 9-1-1 and you are connected to a central dispatcher who will ask questions and gather information ultimately connect you with the services you may need. They are very quick and very efficient.
Something else to think about, is teaching your child what to say to the dispatcher on the other end of the phone. In my experience, dispatchers are trained to extract the information they need to get in order to send the help that is needed.
However, it wouldn’t hurt to rehears or role play with your child in order to prepare them to make this call if needed.
You should make sure your child knows their address and your first and last name. Most phones are now equipped with GPS, that will make tracking relatively simple. Teach your child to know what different emergency services are for. For example, if someone is hurt or very sick, they would need an ambulance.
These are probably overkill, as most dispatchers are highly trained and need very little info outside of the connecting call in order to investigate or send help.
With that said, the more information your child is able to provide the better.
Help prevent 9-1-1 abuse
Along with teaching your child to dial 9-1-1 from your cell phone, you also need to teach them when, why and under what circumstances making that call would be appropriate. This is just as important as know how to make the call in the first place. You don’t want your kids calling 9-1-1 simply because they know how. So take the time to talk to them about what constitute an emergency and what doesn’t. Maybe make flash cards to review different situations and allow them to practice deciding what’s an emergency and what isn’t.
In the end though, I personally believe that the risk of an accidental 9-1-1 call are far out weighed by the life saving potential of a correctly timed and appropriately placed 9-1-1 call of help.
Update: Per the advice of Jenny (a police dispatcher):
And I want to add, that as a police dispatcher, if you find your kiddo has called 9-1-1 by accident, don’t hang up. Wait until the dispatcher comes on the line, tell them your child accidentally call, and confirm everything is okay. That way, the dispatcher doesn’t waste valuable time or resources trying to call back or get location information to make sure you’re okay. We understand kids call by accident, but a quick apology is much better than going at lengths to get help to someone based off limited information.
PLEASE, take the time to not only teach your child how to use your phone in the event of an emergency but also what situations warrant that call in the first place. Who knows, it might just save your life some day.