Not that long ago, there was a separate telephone number for each type of emergency agency. According to the National Emergency Number Association, 911 covers nearly all of the population of the United States, but check your phone book or go online to be sure that 911 is the emergency number to use in your area.
For younger children, it might also help to talk about who the emergency workers are in your community — police officers, firefighters, paramedics, doctors, nurses, and so on — and what kinds of things they do to help people who are in trouble. Although most 911 calls are now traced, it's still important for your kids to have your street address and phone number memorized. Explain that it's OK to be frightened in an emergency, but it's important to stay calm, speak slowly and clearly, and give as much detail to the 911 operator as possible.
Always refer to the emergency number as "nine-one-one" not "nine-eleven." In an emergency, a child may not know how to dial the number correctly because of trying to find the "eleven" button on the phone.
Make sure your house number is clearly visible from the street so that police, fire, or ambulance workers can easily locate your address.


If you live in an apartment building, make sure your child knows the apartment number and floor you live on. If you have special circumstances, such as an elderly grandparent or a person with a heart condition, epilepsy, or diabetes living in your home, prepare your child by discussing specific emergencies that could occur and how to spot them.
An emergency dispatch operator quickly takes information from the caller and puts the caller in direct contact with whatever emergency personnel are needed, thus making response time quicker. They'll need to give that information to the operator as a confirmation so time isn't lost sending emergency workers to the wrong address.
If they're old enough to understand, also explain that the emergency dispatcher may give first-aid instructions before emergency workers arrive at the scene. This should include police, fire, and medical numbers (particularly important if you live in one of the few areas where 911 is not in effect), as well as a number where you can be reached, such as your cell phone, pager, or work number. So if someone dials 911 as a prank, emergency personnel could be dispatched directly to that location.


In the confusion of an emergency, calling from a printed list is simpler than looking in the phone book or figuring out which is the correct speed-dial number. Role playing is an especially good way to address various emergency scenarios and give your kids the confidence they'll need to handle them. 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. Others don't realize that 911 is for true emergencies only (not for such things as a flat tire or even about a theft that occurred the week before).



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