911 for Kids

Learning what is an emergency goes hand in hand with learning what isn’t.

A fire, an intruder in the home, an unconscious family member - all these situations would require a call to 911. A bruised knee, a stolen bike or a lost pet wouldn’t be considered and emergency. Teach your child that if they are ever in doubt and no adult is around to ask, always make the call to 911. It’s so much better to be safe than sorry.

The Importance of Calling 911

Make sure your child understands that calling 911 as a joke is a crime in many places. In some cities, officials estimate that as much as 75 percent of the calls made to 911 are non-emergency calls. These are not all pranks. Some people accidentally push the emergency button on their cell phones. Others don’t realize that 911 is for true emergencies only. That means it is not for such things as a flat tire or even about a theft that occurred the week before.

Calling 911 Is Not a Joke

Stress to your child that whenever an unnecessary call is made to 911, it can delay a response to someone who actually needs it. Most areas now have what is called enhanced 911, which enables a call to be traced to the location from which it was made. So if someone dials 911 as a prank, emergency personnel could be dispatched directly to that location. Not only could this mean life or death for someone having a real emergency on the other side of town, it also means that it’s very likely the prank caller will be caught and punished.

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. Your child will need to give that information to the operator as a confirmation so time isn’t lost sending emergency workers to the wrong address.

Information to Give

Make sure your child knows that even though she shouldn’t give personal information to strangers, it is OK to trust the 911 operator. Walk 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?

Stay Calm - Emergencies Happen

Explain to your child that it’s OK to be frightened in an emergency, but it is important to stay calm, speak slowly and clearly, and give as much detail to the 911 operator as possible. If your child is old enough to understand, also explain 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 - otherwise, important instructions or information could be missed.