​​Teaching Children About 9-1-1

As parents and teachers, we all want to do all we can to keep our children safe. Part of that task is educating them on how to respond when they see or find themselves in dangerous situations. One of the best ways to do that is to teach them how to call for help using the 9-1-1 system.

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Virginia Beach Emergency Communications and Citizen Services offers several tools that you can use when teaching children how to call 9-1-1.

 Cell Phone Sally

Cell Phone Sally is an animated character who is featured in the video, "9-1-1: Getting Help Is Easy." Sally and her friends teach children how to call 9-1-1 using the various types of telephones available today, how to talk to 9-1-1 operators, and when one should or should not call 9-1-1.

The City of Virginia Beach has invested in a Cell Phone Sally character costume for appearances at special events such as parades, meetings, or fairs that your organization may be planning. If you would like to have Cell Phone Sally make an appearance at your event, please email her at CellPhoneSally@VBgov.com.

Would you like to contact Cell Phone Sally and ask her some questions about what to do in case you ever have an emergency? Email her at: CellPhoneSally@VBgov.com. You will receive an official Cell Phone Sally response to your email. You can even ask her about when she will next be appearing in your area.

Remember, Cell Phone Sally wants you to know, "In an emergency, getting help is easy...just call 9-1-1!"

Cell Phone Sally Video

 Tips for Teaching about 911

Here Are Nine Tips for Teaching Kids How to Dial 9-1-1.

1.  First, explain what 9-1-1 is, why it is important and when to call

Tell your child that 911 is a special phone number to call when there's an emergency and lives are at risk. Explain that this is what you do when you need the police, the fire department or an ambulance.

2.  Go over how to dial from both a landline and a cell phone

Keep in mind that even on a locked screen, it is possible to make an emergency phone. Many children may also be unfamiliar with how landlines work if there isn't one in the home.

3.  Make sure children know their name, their parents' names and their home address as well as what to do when 9-1-1 answers

Dispatchers are trained to speak to children, but a child cannot relay information they don't know. They should remember to:
  • Stay calm and speak slowly
  • Tell the 9-1-1 call taker what’s wrong and where they need help
  • Speak up load and clear when the 9-1-1 call taker asks questions
  • Stay on the phone until the 9-1-1 call taker tells you it is OK to hang up.

4.  Explain what constitutes an emergency and what doesn't using simple examples

Teach kids that a 911 emergency is when someone needs help right away due to an injury or immediate danger. 

Examples of when to call 9-1-1:

  • there’s a fire
  • someone is unconscious after an accident, drinking too much, or an overdose of pills or drugs
  • someone has trouble breathing, like during an asthma attack or seizure
  • someone is chocking
  • they see a crime happening, like a break-in, or someone hurting another person
  • there’s a serious car accident

Examples of when not to call 9-1-1:

  • if there is no emergency
  • for animals (except when they pose a threat to the safety of a person)
  • as a game/prank/joke
  • just to practice

5.  For young children, it is a good idea to talk about different types of emergency workers

Explain who police officers, firefighters and paramedics are and what kinds of things they do to help people in trouble.

6.  Make sure kids know that in the event of a fire or burglary, it is important to get out of the house before calling for help

Advise them that they can also go to a trusted neighbor's home to call 9-1-1.

7.  Instruct children to follow the dispatcher's directions and to never hang up the phone until they've been told to do so

It may take several minutes to confirm where a cellphone call originates, and even then, it may not pinpoint an exact location. 

8.  When you are out and about, help your child recognize landmarks close to your home

Dispatchers may try to figure out a child's location by asking what's around them. It helps if they can describe nearby landmarks or surrounding homes.

9.  Practice

Going over this once may not be enough. Practice periodically to help children retain the information.
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