Advance View: Children equipped to save lives with 9-1-1

During an emergency, 9-1-1 is a critical lifeline that connects those in need with first responders, and children who know how and when to call 9-1-1 can save lives. 

This week is Emergency Service Dispatchers’ and 9-1-1 Awareness Week.

E-Comm call-takers and dispatchers – the bones and blood of the familiar 9-1-1 emergency dispatchsystem – are reaching out to parents and caregivers, urging them to take time to teach their children about 9-1-1. It could be one of the most important lessons they’ll ever learn.

“It’s heartbreaking when you get a 9-1-1 call from a young child who is scared, hurt, or needs help for a loved one,” explained one of E-Comm’s 9-1-1 call-takers.

Because you never know when a child may need to use that service, it’s important that they learn at an early age what to do in an emergency. Role-playing with your kids can help to prepare them.

E-Comm 9-1-1 call-takers have some great tips for parents/caregivers: show your child how to dial 9-1-1 on both landlines and cells (dialing can differ between phones)

Explain when to call 9-1-1 in words they can easily understand: 

If your child or someone else is “really sick or hurt”

If your child “smells or sees smoke or fire”

If your child feels in danger or “sees someone doing something very bad like stealing or hurting someone”

Explain to your child that a 9-1-1 operator will ask questions about where they are and what is happening. They will send the police, fire department or ambulance to help them.

Ensure children know where phones are located. Keep cordless phones fully charged and in the same place at all times and within easy reach.

Teach children their address including apartment numbers and building entry codes and keep that information close to all phones. Remember that landlines provide exact location information (addresses) to 9-1-1 but cellphones provide general location information only (no addresses).  

Role-playing what to do in emergency situations help kids understand what to do and when to call. You can find examples of the kinds of questions 9-1-1 staff will ask at

Help prevent accidental 9-1-1 calls: Never pre-program 9-1-1 and don’t let kids play with phones, including old cellphones. Even decommissioned cellphones can still dial 9-1-1 if there is a charged battery. It is important for parents to know that in the event of accidental/prank calls 9-1-1 operators will call back and send police when location is determined.

If you would like to practise dialing 9-1-1 with your children, always unplug landline phones or remove batteries from cellphones while doing so (and remember to replace batteries or plug phones back in when you’re done).

“Knowing how to dial 9-1-1 is important for children of all ages, and we have lots of information, tips, and free learning materials available in a variety of languages on our website,” said Jody Robertson, E-Comm’s Director of Corporate Communications.

Robertson encourages parents to practise dialing 9-1-1 with their children, but asks that 9-1-1 not be programmed into any phone or given phones to play with to avoid accidental calls. “Accidental calls from children playing with phones do happen and that’s something we’d like to avoid to keep emergency lines free.”

Parents, caregivers, teachers and children of all ages can visit to download/order free materials. 

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