Teaching Your Child How to Recognize and Act in an Emergency

We hope it never happens, but when it does, we want our kids to be prepared.

Every so often in the news you will hear a story about a young hero who has the wherewithal to call 911 and save someone’s life. You might even have the thought, “I should show my kid how to do that,” right before you get busy making dinner.

However, have you actually had a talk with your child about what to do in an emergency? Here are a few critical considerations that can prepare your child with a valuable plan of action should an emergency come up.

How do you explain what 911 is? Young kids are often not very familiar with the phone, although that is changing with the proliferation of devices. One good idea is to program your home phone with 911 so that all anyone has to do is pick it up and press one button. When you show them that button, you can say there is an operator who will send an ambulance, police car, or a fire truck to the house when something is going wrong. Even with the quick dial, make sure kids also know how to dial the numbers.

When is it appropriate to call 911? It used to be that there were separate numbers for different kinds of incidents, but now 911 covers pretty much all of them. Fire, major injury, choking, an unconscious family member, or an intruder break-in are the big ones. Give children criteria for determining all these emergencies so that when it happens they can identify the situation correctly.

When not to call 911. Just as important, kids should know that calling 911 erroneously is considered against the law in many states. Make sure they know a skinned knee or a stolen bike is not an emergency, and there are other measures to take for those situations. Point out that every non-emergency call to 911 ties up the operator for real emergencies and so it’s very important not to call unless there is a real problem.

What do you say to the operator? Some kids freeze when they actually get on a call, so give them a sort of script. While most operators can locate the sources of a call pretty quickly, it’s not a bad idea to have your younger children at least memorize their street name. If you live in an apartment, teach your child your door number too. If they can read, you can write them a script that you can post near the phone. Distinguish between giving your personal information to a stranger versus relaying that information to the operator.

Staying Calm. Emergencies are scary, but if your little ones have this information in their minds, they will be more likely to better handle a high-stress situation. Deep breaths and one step at a time are always great directives that can help potentially save a life.

Of course, we never want these scenarios to happen, but it’s part of responsible parenting to arm our kids with as much information and preparation as possible. Down to the knowing where the first-aid kit is, our children are capable of acting in disaster situations if we give them the right tools.


For more information on preparing your child for other kinds of emergencies, check out these websites:





About Susie Almaneih

Susie Almaneih spent several years during her young adulthood teaching children dance at her church group, as well as other cultural-based activities. Susie now spends as much time as she can giving back to the families in her community. Over the years, this love for community has evolved into a deeper love for delivering positive and creative content and awareness to families of all ages.

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