Is Your Child Prepared to… Dial 911?

By Katie Saltz

Teaching your child to recognize an emergency and call for help doesn’t have to be a scary process. Tammy Cole, a communications training officer for Jessamine County 911, shares tips on when and how to teach your child about calling 911. Around age 4 tends to be the best time to teach a child about 911.


Talk About What Is a True Emergency.

An emergency is something when you feel you or someone else is in danger. Be very specific in your examples.

“If you see a house on fire.” “If you see a person lying on the ground not moving.”


Help Your Child Memorize Key Information.

Your address, phone number, name and age are important. Knowing phone numbers for Mom and Dad is a plus.


Practice With Your Children So They Are Aware and Knowledgeable About 911.

Pretend to be the 911 dispatcher and ask your child:

Where is your emergency?

What is your name and phone number?

What is wrong, or why did you call 911?


You can also call the 911 center on the non-emergency line and ask whether the

child can call 911 and talk to a dispatcher.


Have Your Child Practice the 5 W’s







Teach Cell Phone Competence:

If you don’t have a landline phone, make sure your child knows how to operate a cell phone to dial 911. Some cell phones have a medical emergency button, and others will pull up an emergency screen if you hit the on/off button five times.


If there are no cell phones in the house, make a plan to go to a neighbor’s house or somewhere with a phone.


Sign up for SMART911 at This free program has you create an online profile with information about your family (medications, health conditions, pets, etc;) You link the profile to your phone numbers and when you call 911, everything from the profile pulls up on the dispatcher screen.


Other Useful Info:

Cell phones that no longer have service will still call 911.

If you accidentally call 911, stay on the line and let the dispatcher know it was a mistake.

Teach your child that after dialing 911 on a cell phone, they need to hit “send”

Here are some scenarios to practice with your child:

“You are outside with your dad. He is on a ladder on the house, and he falls off and hits the ground. No one else is home. Dad doesn’t talk to you when you ask him a question. Do you call 911? What do you tell the dispatcher?”

“You are outside skating with your brother and he falls down. He says his arm and knee hurt a little but he is ok. Do you call 911?”