The mother of a four-year-old child faints when the child is the only other person at home.
He calls 911 and paramedics take the mother to hospital. She recovers and rejoins her family.
Such a simple scenario that could have gone so wrong.
Brad Mitchell of B.C. Ambulance Service was the charge dispatcher on duty several months ago when the described call came in.
While the child had called 911, he didn’t know his address.
“Teaching your child to call 911 and to know their home address is one of the most important things you can do to help keep you and your loved ones safe at home,” said Mitchell.
Dr. Michal Fedeles, manager, learning design for BCAS, said even very young children can learn to call 911.
“Start with the basics when your child is three or four,” he said. “Role-play some simple scenarios with your child – ‘Mom can’t get up from the floor and there’s no one else around’ – without actually calling 911.
Revisit the issue every year, as your child becomes more mature and aware of his or her surroundings and abilities. Fall is a good time because school starts and household routines change.
“Children can grasp the concept of an emergency situation – whether someone is unresponsive from a fall or from fainting, if a fire starts or if someone is breaking into your home,” said Fedeles. “Of course, tailor the discussion to your child based on whether they’re preschool age or a teenager.”
It’s also a good idea to let a child know the kinds of questions to expect when they call 911.
“Dispatchers will ask where you are calling from, what’s your address, if the person you’re calling about is awake,” said Mitchell.
Parents or child care providers should also be sure to stress that the child not hang up on the call.
Dispatchers will stay connected with the child until paramedics arrive; they can be a calming influence for the child as well as provide instructions for caring for the patient.
Depending on the situation, they may ask your child to flag down the ambulance or put the family dog away so paramedics can focus on providing care when they arrive.