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
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
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
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
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
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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