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9-1-1 FOR KIDS

9-1-1 callers range in all ages. A 2021 study found that in  an emergency simulation, 40% of kindergartners and first graders and 80% of second and third graders were able to recognize an emergency, but none of the youngest and only 20% of those second and third graders knew to dial 9-1-1. Of those that called 9-1-1, only 16% were able to answer questions that was asked by the 9-1-1 dispatcher.

This leads to children being unaware the importance of 9-1-1 and can lead to prank calls or accidental calls by children. Many do not realize disabled cell phone (those without a service plan) can still call 9-1-1, which leads to accidental calls by children playing on these phones. Below are resources for children to learn more about 9-1-1 and when to call. 

Teaching your child how to call 9-1-1 in an emergency could save a life. Calling 9-1-1 from a landline is always preferred as it provides 9-1-1 with your address, if one isn't available, your child should be familiar with how to call from a cell phone. 

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  • Make sure your child knows their address or where they are. Even though 9-1-1 can use GPS to locate a caller, it is not always as accurate as we would like. In instances where your child may be calling from an apartment building or a densely populated area, it may be difficult to pin down exactly where they are. 

  • Teach your child the differences between emergency situations requiring them to call 9-1-1 and non-emergencies. Calling for a fire, car accident, burglars or medical emergencies are perfect examples of when to use 9-1-1. However, prank calling 9-1-1, calling and asking for directions or help with homework are not emergencies and can delay 9-1-1 services to those that may need it.

  • Teach them how to use your cell phone. Yes, kids today are probably smarter than us when it comes to technology, but ensure they are familiar with using the "Emergency" feature on the Home screen to dial 9-1-1. 

  • Depending on your child's age, make sure they're familiar with the phone's keypad. Practice with them how to dial the number 9-1-1, but again, stress the importance or not dialing unless it is an emergency.

  • Know their relatives' names. 9-1-1 has a lot of resources to reference in an emergency. As your child gets older, knowing the names of relatives, other than "Mom" or "Dad" can be helpful to 9-1-1 in an emergency if they need to cross-reference properties or previous history of 9-1-1 calls. 

  • Do not teach 9-1-1 as "nine-eleven". To ensure there is no confusion for your child, referring to the emergency number as "nine-eleven" can be confusing when they go to dial the numbers because it may delay them by spending too much time looking for the "11" on a keypad. Referring to the 3-step process as "9-1-1" ensures they know the "one" must be pressed twice. 

  • Do not let children play with old cell phones. Those hand-me-down phones may not be useful to us but by federal law those phone are required to have the ability to dial 9-1-1, with or without cell phone service. Children playing on those phones can lead to accidental calls to 9-1-1. 

  • Calling 9-1-1 doesn't have to be intimidating. All too often, children are scared to talk to 9-1-1 dispatchers, after all, they are strangers to your child. But in reality, they are there to help your child when they call 9-1-1. Educating your child on what to expect is important. Children need to know the dispatcher is there to help them, asking questions and giving life-saving instructions to your child, so it is important that your child stays on the phone and listens carefully to the dispatcher.

  • Ensure they are safe before calling 9-1-1. While getting help to them is important, their immediate safety is more important. Make sure your child knows to get to safety before calling 9-1-1. If the house is on fire, getting out of the house is first priority and then calling 9-1-1 is secondary.


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