It is time to take a look at the truth about 911. We are taught to call 911 in a dangerous situation in North America. This has always been, and continues to be, good advice! However, did anyone explain to you what the procedure of calling 911 actually looks like. It is so much more than dialing three numbers. Parents and educators need to start explaining the process to children to ensure the effectiveness of the system!
911 is an amazing example of a multi-agency response network that saves lives on a daily basis. However, many times the caller mistakenly hangs up because they do not understand the truth about 911. The truth is a 911 call can be a difficult process for someone experiencing a crises, especially if they do not know what to expect.
Calling 911 obviously starts with dialing the numbers. Unfortunately, this is the only portion of the call that is taught! Parents need to explain to their children that the following list is some of the things the 911 operator will be asking.
Common Questions Asked by 911 Operators:
“911, what is your emergency?”
This will always be the first question asked when you call 911. It is used to determine if you require Police, Fire, or Paramedics. Children should be taught to explain what is happening to them in a clear and concise manner.
“Are you somewhere safe?”
The operator uses this question to determine the priority level of the response. Children need to understand that somewhere safe means somewhere away from the person or situation with a responsible and safe adult. This could be a store clerk, a bank teller, a teacher, or any other adult not directly involved in the incident.
“Can you describe the person or situation?”
The most important information gathered during a 911 call is often the physical description. It is critical we take the time to teach our children how to describe another person. An accurate description includes looking at clothing but it should also include things such as tattoos, gender, hair color, eye color, and skin color. Yes, I said it, skin color. This has nothing to do with race or being racist. If you would describe the color of a persons shirt, why can’t you describe the color of their skin? This descriptor can significantly improve the chances of police catching a suspect before they can hurt someone else, as it focuses the search. Skin color is one aspect of a description that will never change.
“Where are you?”
In times of stress this is not always so easy to answer. We often don’t know the actual address of our location. This question becomes more difficult to answer if we had to run from a threatening situation. Teach yourself and your children to look for large landmarks if an address is not readily apparent. First responders can only respond if they know where you are!
“Please stay on the line while I transfer you.”
Not a question, but still deserving of its own consideration. Police, Fire or EMS may need to speak directly to you. This may require a transfer of the call. Children are never told to expect this. In fact, many adults are unaware they may be transferred. If transferred you need to stay on the line, no matter what, to ensure first responders are coming directly to you. Hanging up can result in police blindly searching the GPS location of your phone, which can be up to a 2 kilometer radius!
Never Hang Up!
Calling 911 is one of the most important things we will ever teach our children, but we need to do a better job. The truth about 911 is it can be an excellent tool but children, and adults, need to understand there is more to it than just dialing the numbers. Additionally, never hang up after calling 911. Even if the call was made in error, do not hang up. Remaining on the line will enhance your safety and the operation of the system as a whole. Take the time to think about the points in this article when teaching your children to help improve their safety and the response time of Emergency Services.
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