Preparing Children for Emergencies
Parents can help children stay safe by beginning safety lessons early and providing opportunities for children to practice them often. Games, activities, toys, and role-playing can make learning fun while teaching children how to behave in emergency situations.
According to SAFE KIDS AMERICA, the number one health risk for America’s young kids is accidental injuries. Each year, approximately 6,700 kids ages 14 and under die from injuries sustained in accidents, and more than 50,000 are permanently disabled. This year alone, one in four (about 13 million) children age fourteen and younger will be hurt seriously enough to require medical attention.
The major injury risk areas are: traffic injury (passenger, pedestrian and bicyclist), fire and burns, drowning, poisoning and choking, and falls. Parents can help protect their families from these injuries with some simple steps.
Begin with the Basics
It is important to teach children their basic personal information so if they become separated from a parent or guardian they can identify themselves and get help. Basic information includes questions such as:
- What is your full name?
- What is your address?
- What is your phone number?
- What is your parent’s work number?
“Some kids would be ready to start memorizing this sort of information as early as age 2-1/2, but most kids would not be ready until well after their third birthday,” says Andy Spooner, MD, MS, FAAP, Associate Professor, and Director, Division of General Pediatrics, Department of Pediatrics, University of Tennessee College of Medicine, Le Bonheur Children’s Medical Center, in Memphis.
“If you have a really verbal child, take advantage of this talent and get them started on it early. Otherwise, try to remember to put this info in a discreet place on diaper bag tags, bookbags, blankets, and any other object that your child is likely to travel with. Iron-on paper for inkjet printers works great for this kind of labeling,” Spooner says.
Teaching Kids to Respond
Learning about safety can be a fun, educational, and lifesaving activity. Around the ages of three to six, it is important that children learn to successfully dial their home telephone number and Emergency 911 for safety reasons. A fire, an accident or sudden illness involving a parent or caregiver and other situations are just some of the emergency situations that warrant that children be able to make a phone call home or dial 911.
According to EMS Illinois, children should first be able to recognize the numbers on the phone and be able to point to them. This should be practiced regularly. Many kids like to play with a real phone or cell phone. You can disconnect the phone for a few minutes to practice the numbers once a week or so.
Also, it is important to stress that 911 is a number used only in extreme emergencies and then explain to the child what these emergencies are.
Parents and school teachers can help children age three or younger trace emergency 911 and their home phone number and to practice the dialing procedure. First practice 911 until that is mastered, then move on to practice the telephone number. To reinforce teaching of these numbers, parents can also:
- Bake cookies using number cookie cutters to practice the telephone number and 911.
- Make a 911 and/or My Telephone Number Banner and display it in bedroom or near the phone.
- Put a sticker on the toy phone with 911 and the telephone numbers so the child can practice and view the numbers frequently.
- Decide on a secret password that only each parent and the child know, which would indicate to the child he should make a call to 911.
- Role play with children as to what they should do if a parent is suddenly sick or injured.
Children can also learn about emergency service through music, videos, and coloring activities and websites. Many schools and local police and fire departments have coloring books that teach about 911 and emergency response, and some libraries offer multi-media for teaching emergency safety.
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