Recently I heard from a friend that works at a 911 call center about a very stressful call that she handled. A 7 year old girl called to report that she and her 3 year old brother were alone with their father and he collapsed and was unresponsive. She didn’t know their address, they asked her to go outside and read the house number but she still didn’t know the name of the street (apparently it was a long street) and no neighbors were home.
It took an hour for the ambulance to find them and by then the father was dead. Such a tragic burden for a young child.
That reminded me that it had been a few months since I’ve had a safety talk with my kids. While I hope that we are never in the position that they will need to use this information, I do my best to have age appropriate discussions on emergency and safety procedures with them every few weeks to keep the information fresh. I believe that any parent with a child of toddler age or older will want to at least cover the basics.
I admit that this was tricky to do when I first started but it’s gotten easier with practice. Some parents create lesson plans with activities and worksheets, I personally found it easier and less intimidating for the kids to have a conversation while we are sharing a meal. If you want some resources to get started, check with your local community agencies. I have gotten some helpful materials and workbooks from the local police department, EMS and other agencies.
I don’t put the pressure of memorization on them, I simply repeat things and quiz them occasionally about it to see what they know. For example Zen doesn’t have my phone number memorized and only knows the house number and town but not the street. He however knows very well what to do if he sees a gun, he knows which strangers are tricky strangers and what the passwords and code words that we use are. Shammy on the other hand has everything memorized and while he may struggle remembering how to make an emergency call from my cellphone, he knows what to do and say once that’s done.
The things we discuss (not all at the same time to avoid overwhelming them):
- Types of emergencies and what to do- Fire, medical emergencies, car accident, etc.
- Home address- I make sure that they know our home address (house number, street name and city), I don’t worry about the zip code as I want them to be able to tell it to 911 dispatch or a police office, not mail a letter. I also mention not sharing their address with others except in an emergency.
- How to call 911- We don’t have a landline in our house so we review how to dial 911 from a cell phone with a lock screen. I keep a unactivated old cellphone charged and my son knows where it is since they can make emergency calls even without being active. I sometimes forget to check the battery charge and it dies so my cell phone has an emergency call button on the lock screen so my son doesn’t have to remember how to unlock it to dial.
- Memorize mama and daddy’s phone number- I want them to know at least one of them, preferably both.
- Discuss “tricky strangers”. I personally stay away from “stranger danger” because not all strangers are bad. Instead I teach about tricky strangers and make sure they understand what makes someone “tricky”. This website is a good resource for that.
- Discuss gun safety. Even if you don’t have guns in your house it is important that your children know gun safety because they may visit a home of a friend or relative that you don’t know has guns. We use the NRA’s Eddie Eagle curriculum but I expand on it through discussion. My gun isn’t a mystery to them and they are allowed to ask questions and look at it yet know that under no circumstances are they allowed to touch it without permission. They have seen a video of the damage that a bullet can do to a watermelon and can easily imagine what it can do to a person.
- Review safety code words- We have a code word that if used outside the house it means “we need to go RIGHT NOW, follow me with no arguments” and if used inside the house it means “hide”. We also have password for an adult other than family having permission to pick them up, if the person doesn’t know that word they know not to go with them.
- What to do if we get separated in public or mama/daddy collapses- Their first goal is to find another mother with kids, if not find police or employee. If nobody is around, use parent’s cell phone to call 911.
- Body smarts- I remind them that they are bosses of their bodies and nobody can touch them in the areas covered by their bathing suit. Parents or doctor can only touch with their permission. There are no secrets or games when it comes to their body.
This post is not meant to be comprehensive and it doesn’t include all safety aspects but it should be a good starting point for a parent that may not have given safety planning a lot of thought before.