Practicing Builds Confidence

We all know that instructions on what to do in case of emergency can be quickly forgotten when fright and fear take over.

Practiced skills build muscle memory that can make all the difference. If an emergency should actually happen, that muscle memory can kick in immediately, and your children can do what needs to be done automatically. Those practiced skills build self-confidence and a sense of personal safety as well.

Here is a great script for you to use while practicing with your children.

Before You Start Practicing 9-1-1 Calls:

  • Unplug the phone or take the batteries out of a cell phone before you practice.
  • Be sure your child speaks up. The operator has to hear a voice. (Although, if a child is calling from a land line and does not speak the call can be traced.)
  • If children can't or won't say anything else, try to get them to say, "I need help." This tells the dispatcher right away it's not a prank call or a mistake. A police officer told us that a child's voice asking for help mobilizes a pull-out-all-the-stops response more quickly than anything else.
  • Tell children "nine-one-one." If you tell them to call "nine-eleven" – they will look for the eleven button on the phone and won't be able to find it.
  • Be sure kids know they don't need money to call from a pay phone.
  • Be sure kids know to stay on the phone until the operator says to hang up. But if they are in danger, tell them to run to a safe place without hanging up the phone.

The Practice Script

  • "Nine-one-one operator. What is your emergency?"
    A child should start with "I need help" and go on to say what is wrong.
  • "Where are you?" (Home address or names of schools, streets, stores, etc.—Answers to "where are you?" are especially important to practice because a cell phone call can't be traced to your exact location with current technology. Soon, but not yet...)
  • "What is your name?" (Full name, if possible.)
  • "Don't hang up. Help is on the way."

The questions above are pretty standard. Some of the following questions might be asked, depending on the emergency.

  • "Are you OK? Were you hurt?"
  • "How old are you?"
  • "Is the person still around?"
  • "What did the person look like?"

Practice with both land lines (unplugged) and cell phones (batteries out)

To help your child practice cell phone calling:

  • First, have your child press the button that would turn the power ON.
  • Press 9-1-1
  • Push the "SEND" or "ENTER" button. It usually has green letters. Or push the green telephone picture. Cell phones are different so it helps to practice on different models.

Other resources:

r.a.d.KIDS' 10-hour safety training program for 4- to 12-year-olds gives kids lots of 9-1-1 practice. Check www.radKIDS.org to see if programs are offered in your area.