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Teaching your Children about 9-1-1

BC Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) recommends that you speak with your children, in a calm, reassuring manner, about different kinds of emergency situations.
Through some simple questions and role-playing, you will build confidence in your children that they will be able to handle an emergency, if necessary.

In this tip sheet, you’ll find recommendations to help you teach your children about emergencies and ways to practice calling 9-1-1. We’ve also included the kinds of questions a dispatcher will ask.

It’s a good idea to revisit this topic with your children every year. You can add depth and detail as they grow and mature.

  • ‎9-1-1 is a number to call for help when someone is in danger or not safe.
  • Always use ‘nine-one-one’.
    • Never refer to the number as ‘nine-eleven’.
    • In the uncertainty of an emergency, a child may look at a phone keypad for the number 11.
  • 9-1-1 is a safe number to call; children can trust the dispatcher who answers their 9-1-1 call.
  • If you live in an area that does not have 9-1-1 service, be sure to help your children learn your local emergency number. Make sure it is clearly visible near your home phone.
  • It’s a good idea to point out ambulance, fire and police personnel to your children when you see them in your community. 
    • Example: ‘There’s an ambulance; paramedics work in that ambulance. If you call 9-1-1 because someone is very sick or hurt, they will come to help you.’
  • You should call only when you need emergency help from ambulance, fire fighters or police.
  • Never call 9-1-1 as a joke or a game.  
    • Making frivolous calls to 9-1-1 is a crime.
  • Tell your children that they must be in a safe place before they call 9-1-1.
  • If there is a fire in your home, go outside and call 9-1-1 or go to a neighbour’s house.
  • It’s a good idea to help your children understand what an emergency is.
  • Questions are a good way to convey this information.
    • What would you do if someone couldn’t breathe?
    • What would you do if someone faints?
    • What would you do if you skinned your knee?
  • Role-playing is a great way to be sure your children understand the concept of an emergency.
  • When you call 9-1-1, a dispatcher will ask you if you need police, fire or ambulance.
  • The dispatcher for ambulance will ask you what the emergency is and where you are.
  • Be sure to tell the dispatcher the address of your home or where you are, your apartment number (if you have one), and your phone number.
  • While you are talking to the dispatcher, another dispatcher is sending an ambulance and paramedics to your location to help with the emergency.
  • It’s important that you listen to the dispatcher and follow his or her instructions.
  • The dispatcher will stay on the phone with you until the paramedics arrive.
  • Do not hang up the phone until paramedics arrive or the dispatcher asks you to do so.

Practice, practice, practice

  • Role-play with your children to build their confidence.
  • Ask them when they should call 9-1-1.
  • Ask them to point out emergency workers in your community.

Tips for emergencies

  • Keep a first aid kit at home and in your car.
  • Keep a list of emergency phone numbers in an easily accessible place in your home.
  • If you live in an area where you need to dial a number other than 9-1-1, be sure that number is clearly visible.
  • Make sure the address numbers on your home are well lit and visible from the street when it is dark.
SOURCE: Teaching your Children about 9-1-1 ( )
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