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Teaching kids and teens about 9-1-1

Published: Monday, April 22, 2013 3:50 p.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, April 22, 2013 3:56 p.m. CDT

Editor’s note: This is the second story in an ongoing series highlighting National 9-1-1 Education Month

PRINCETON – Dawn Porter, BuEComm 911 education coordinator, visits various classrooms each year to familiarize students with 9-1-1 and its importance.

It’s her belief that when children start learning colors, numbers and ABCs, they should also begin memorizing their address, phone number and how to dial 9-1-1 in an emergency.

“They should know that as well as how to tie their shoes,” she said. “It’s amazing to me that we get some very young ones, as young as 4, who know about 9-1-1.”

Throughout her years as 9-1-1 education coordinator, the one, big mistake she’s recognized is parents threatening their child with the police. If ever in a real emergency, this could create hesitation from a child needing to dial for help, she said.

“(Parents) have to teach their kids that police officers, the fire department, the ambulance and dispatchers are their friends and are there to help them,” she said.

Another important tip is to teach kids to dial 9-1-1 from the main phone in the house – whether it be a cellphone or old rotary phone. Never assume kids know how to dial from any type of phone, Porter said. Dialing from a regular home phone is different from dialing from a cellphone.

For parents who let kids play with old cellphones, remember to take the battery out before handing it over. Diana Stiles, BuEComm director, said a number of “gurgling babies” have been known to accidentally dial 9-1-1.

As kids grow into teens, different issues arise. Porter’s big push with teens is making them understand texting 9-1-1 will not work. Also, paying attention to where they’re driving in new areas is key. Porter said BuEComm has received numerous calls from teens who have been an accident, but can’t identify their location, because they were “just following a friend.”

Another important thing for teens to remember is after a car accident, the first number that should be dialed is 9-1-1. Porter said a lot of times teens call their parents first and then parents call 9-1-1, however the problem with that is dispatchers will not be able to locate where the accident occurred. Teens should call 9-1-1 first and let 9-1-1  contact parents.

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