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Teaching kids about 9-1-1

It’s important to teach your child age-appropriate information about how and when to call 9-1-1. You can teach younger children to call 9-1-1 if they’re with someone who is really hurt or really sick. Someone who is really hurt or sick might include a person who cannot breathe, a person you cannot wake up, or a person who has an injury that is bleeding really badly.

Younger children may struggle to decide if they should call 9-1-1 if they are by themselves. One method is to teach them, “If you’re not sure if you should call 9-1-1, find an older or bigger person who is close by and ask them.” 


If they are truly alone, however, and they believe it’s a real emergency, they can call 9-1-1 and help will arrive. The 9-1-1 staff (Emergency Communications Officers) will help them over the phone to find out what type of help is needed and how quickly. Although 9-1-1 is only for real emergencies, first responders would rather attend a call where there is less of a concern and clear the scene quickly, than not be called at all to what turned out to be a life-threatening emergency.


The most important information to share when you call 9-1-1 is the address of the emergency and the telephone number you are calling from. You can help younger children who can read by keeping your home address and phone number written beside the home phone or in a place they know to look if they need to. 


Once 9-1-1 has the address, they can at least begin sending help even if the exact type of emergency is not yet known. They can also call back right away if a caller hangs up too early or by mistake, or if the call is accidentally dropped while using a cell phone. When calling from a cell phone, be ready to give the closest address or cross street.


It’s very important to teach children 9-1-1 is for real emergencies only. If they manage to call 9-1-1 accidently, teach them to stay on the line and tell the Emergency Communications Officer what happened. Never hang up! If they do, 9-1-1 will need to call back until they can determine there is no emergency. 


Stuart Brideaux has been a paramedic since 1999, initially with The City of Calgary, EMS. He became a Public Education Officer (PEO) in 2007. He continued his career as a PEO with Alberta Health Services, EMS, where he enjoys providing public outreach, school presentations, and media relations for EMS. In his spare time, Stuart enjoys performing with the Calgary Civic Symphony and spending time with his family. 


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