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Does your child know how to dial 9-1-1? Do they know what to do when the operator picks up? These are questions that you may not have considered, but teaching your little ones how to deal with emergency situations is one of the most valuable lessons you can give your children.

“What is 9-1-1?”

Tell your child that 911 is a number that is used for emergency situations. These situations include, but are not limited to:

• An injured or unconscious family member
• A person breaking into your home
• A person aggressively knocking on the door
• A house fire of any size
• An aggressive stray dog in the yard

“When can I dial 9-1-1?”

The importance of dialing (or not dialing) is a very important (and sometimes lifesaving) concept for young children to understand. In the event of an emergency, it may be difficult for a child to make the distinction between an issue that warrants calling emergency personnel and getting the assistance of a grown-up.

A good rule is that it is okay to call 9-1-1 anytime a child is alone, or an adult is injured, leaving the child alone. If you are close with your neighbors, asking your child to go next door and get an adult to assess the situation may be best. Distinguishing between an emergency and non-emergency can be difficult for young children, but if they feel like their life is threatened, it’s always better to call 9-1-1 and have everything be okay, than to be afraid to call and regret it later.

“What will happen when I dial 9-1-1?”

Your child should understand how they will be spoken to when reporting an emergency, and how to best answer those questions. Teaching your child their address is very useful and will prove valuable in the case of an emergency. Let your child know that the operator will expect answers to the following questions:

• Where are you?
• What has happened?
• Are you by yourself?
• Are you in a safe place?
• Who needs help?
• If a person is injured, are they breathing?

“What if I forget?”

Repeatedly showing your child where the buttons for 9-1-1 are on your phone will help them not to forget in an emergency situation. Posting signs near phones with simple emergency instructions can save a life and are easy to make.

Consider developing a picture chart of emergencies with the numbers “9-1-1” next to them. It can help your child decipher between emergency and nonemergency situations easier. When creating the chart with your child, you’ll not only be teaching them, but it help builds the recognition of an emergency situation without scaring them.