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Can your child cope with
an emergency?



Today's children appear so grown up. The world is available to them on their televisions and computers. Yet, for all their sophistication, many children do not know how to react in an emergency.

Teaching coping skills


Parents need to help their children develop adequate coping skills. Even young children, who are never left alone, need to know some basics about emergencies and how to get help. Children can be taught how, when, and who to call for help in case of an emergency such as a fire or when someone is injured.

Teaching a child to dial 911 is a good first step. Where the service is not available, parents should post a list of emergency numbers near each phone in the house. However, children need additional guidance. Parents need to explain to their children what constitutes an emergency. An emergency exists when someone is injured or in danger, or when serious property damage is possible.

Adults also need to teach youngsters that in some emergencies, such as fires, gas leaks, and burglaries, they should leave the house immediately and call for help from a neighbor's house.


Most children will need help understand the difference between major and minor crises. Their perceptions of "emergency situations" may differ from their parents'.


To a 10-year-old, it may seem like a real crisis when all the lights go out because of a blown circuit breaker. A good way to teach young children is to talk through a number of unexpected situations, both trivial and serious. The youngsters will develop a better sense of judgment and learn to handle future emergencies.


Playing "what-if" games to help children who don't understand what they should do in various situations. Bring up a number of hypothetical situations -- both emergencies and non-emergencies -- and ask the children what they would do, he says. For example, discuss what to do in case of a fire, and then run through a mock fire drill.


Parents can role-play how to get out of the house and go to a neighbor's. Then mom or dad can play the emergency dispatcher, while the child pretends to report the fire from the neighbor's.


This is also a good time for a family to designate places outside the home where they will meet in case of an emergency. Pick two places to meet. One, right outside your home in case of a sudden emergency such as a fire. Two, another location in your neighborhood in case you can't return home. Everyone in the family must know the locations, including the addresses and phone numbers.


If the youngsters know which situations call for immediate action, and they know how to take that action, they are more likely to remain safe when they are alone or their parent is the one who needs help.


When reporting a life-threatening emergency, the child should be able to tell exactly what the problem is -- a fire in the kitchen, an intruder, or a severe cut.

Make sure they know their address
and phone number

Children should also be able give their name and address, including an apartment number. They also need to know where they are in relation to the nearest intersection, 'northeast of Maple and 6th streets,' for example.


Children who live in rural areas should know and use the official road-numbering system, and not the familiar, local names for roads. Lastly, they should be able to give their phone number, or the phone number they are calling from.


The child should be taught to listen for questions or instructions from the person receiving the call. The youngster should remain on the phone until he or she is told to hang up.


Everyone, whether they have children or not, should make sure that the home phone number as well as the emergency numbers are posted by every phone in the house. It is also a good idea to have the address and other relevant information near each telephone. In an emergency, anyone can become flustered and have trouble remembering the address and phone number.


These preparations can save valuable time when seconds count. It's a good idea for every family to review its level of emergency-preparedness, but it is especially important for families whose children stay home on their own.

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