stock photo by Bubbels
Knowing how and when to call 911 can save their life or the life of someone around them. This is a lesson you'll want to give them right away and revisit frequently.
They probably already know the number, so drilling it may not be where you need to spend your time, but do make time for conversations about when it would be the right thing to do.
- Make sure they know that they should call whenever they need police, firefighters, or an ambulance.
- Use these two tenets to help them decide: "Someone is hurt very badly," and/or "I am very scared." They may have lots of "what if" questions; don't be afraid to go there with them. And remember that kids are usually fairly intuitive about what constitutes a real emergency when it actually happens. Under these two guidelines, you can discuss that "hurt very badly" means you can't fix it at home; you need a hospital. Go over what could happen that would make them "very scared." Include the possibility of getting lost, seeing something on fire, or any other feeling of danger. It's not a fun conversation, but a necessary one. Don't get emotional about it, but have an air of confidence to communicate that you believe they will be able to handle it if they need to.
- Role play with a phone that is turned off (double and triple-check that). Switch roles allowing them to first make the pretend call and answer the questions that they may be asked, and then allow them to be 'dispatch' and ask you the questions and decide what help they will send to you.
- Go over the fact that "if you call it... they will come." Make sure they know that even if they don't say anything at all, the dispatcher will assume they are in danger and send help anyway. Tell them never to hang up until told to by the operator. If they call accidently, they need to 'fess up to the person on the other line, apologize for their mistake and wait until told to hang up.