Teaching your Family how to use 911

When it comes to being a parent, one of the many challenges that arise is arming your family with the skills they need to help themselves and others in an emergency situation.  However, teaching your family about 911 and when and how to use it, could be one of the easiest, and most important, emergency preparedness skills you could teach.   Here’s how to do it.


Teaching your Family How to Use 911

1) What is 911?

Years ago, there was an emergency number you need to remember for each emergency related service (i.e. fire department, hospital, police department, etc) and you would need to know which one to call depending on your emergency situation.  But now, 911 is the central number we use for any emergency situation.  And dependent on what our emergency situation is, a trained operator will send the appropriate emergency help that we need.

As adults, we all know that 911 should only be used in a true emergency situation.  Kids however may not know what a true emergency situation is.  So it’s important to help your children know when something is really an emergency.  One way you can do this, is by talking about different emergency scenarios with your children; asking them questions like, “If our house was on fire, would that be an emergency?” or “What would you do if someone broke in to our house?” will help them better understand when they should or shouldn’t call 911.

If you have really little kids, you could also talk about the various emergency helpers (police, firemen, etc.) that respond to certain kinds of emergencies.  Not only will doing this help teach your kids about emergency situations, but it will also teach what kinds of helpers to expect if they are ever in an emergency situation.

2) When should you call 911?

For kids, almost any stressful situation they face is an emergency.  But that doesn’t mean they should call 911 every time.  So, one thing you can do to help you children better understand when to call 911 is by helping them understand what situations aren’t ones they should call 911 for.  A great way to do this by discussing non-emergency situations like a scraped knee, a lost pet, or even a stolen bicycle, and going over what they could do to solve situations like these.  Then, you could talk about true 911 worthy emergencies situations like home intruders, an unconscious family member, or a house fire that would require the help of 911 to get trained professionals to come help fix the emergency situation.

3) How should you use 911?

911 is for emergencies only.  Something that is extremely important for kids to remember.  Often times, kids will think it’s funny to call 911 as a joke.  But choosing to do this, can keep someone who is truly in an emergency situation from getting the help they need.  So make sure your kids understand the importance of only calling 911 for true emergencies.  Once you’ve gone over that, a great way to teach your family about how to call 911 is through roll play.  To do this, you could play the part of the 911 dispatcher and your child could play the part of the person in need of help.  As you do this make sure to ask your child the following questions are usually asked when a 911 call is placed.

  • Where are you calling from (where do you live)?
  • What’s your emergency?
  • Who needs help?
  • Is the person awake or breathing?

If someone in your family ever needs to call 911, let them know that it’s OK to be scared, but that it’s important to stay calm so that they can give the 911 operator all of the information they need and also be able to do anything the 911 operator may need them to do.

Through all of this, remember to discuss with your family that if they stay calm, they will be able to resolve almost any emergency situation they find themselves in.