Prepare kids for emergencies by teaching them 911.

How to Explain 911 to Children

by Melissa King

You try to protect your child as much as possible, but accidents can happen when she's at a friend's house, the playground or another location without you. At home, you can get hurt and be unable to call for medical attention. Teaching your child about 911 will help her learn what to do in case of an emergency. If your child knows how to use 911, she might save a person's life.

Teach your child the difference between an emergency and a non-emergency. Emergencies include events such as home robberies, fires and serious injuries. Minor injuries, such as scratches and small bumps, aren't emergencies.

Point out emergency service workers in your community, including firefighters, police and doctors. Tell your child what each worker does to help a person who calls 911.

Explain that your child should never call 911 as a prank. Doing so makes it harder for someone with a real emergency to get help. If your child accidentally dials 911, tell him to stay on the line and notify the operator of the accident.

Tell your child to dial "nine-one-one" instead of "nine-eleven." This can confuse kids and cause them to look for the "11" button on the phone.

Keep a list of important household information in an easy-to-see place in case of emergency. Include information such as the full name and age of each person in your family, your full address and a variety of emergency contact phone numbers. If you live in a multi-floor apartment, ensure that your child knows the floor you live on. Tell your child to refer to this information if a 911 operator asks for it.

Practice dialing 911 with your child. Have your child dial 911 on a play telephone and pretend to be the emergency dispatcher. Ask your child questions that the real dispatcher would likely ask. The dispatcher will ask about the type of emergency and your location. If someone is injured, the operator will ask for details about the injury and might give instructions for how to deal with the condition before paramedics arrive.

Tell your child to get to a safe location before dialing 911. For example, if a fire starts in your home, have the child get out of the house as quickly as possible and call 911 from a cellphone or neighbor's phone.

Ask your child not to hang up on the 911 operator until instructed to do so. Hanging up too early could cause him to miss instructions or other information.


  • Clear tree branches, bushes and other items out of the way if they block the view of your house or apartment number from the street. If the number is blocked, paramedics will have difficulty finding your home.

About the Author

Melissa King began writing in 2001. She spent three years writing for her local newspaper, "The Colt," writing editorials, news stories, product reviews and entertainment pieces. She is also the owner and operator of Howbert Freelance Writing. King holds an Associate of Arts in communications from Tarrant County College.

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