One of the most important things you can teach a child when he or she is young is what to do in case of an emergency. You of course hope your child will never have to use this knowledge. But it’s important that the child understands what he should do if grandma should fall down or appear hurt, if someone approaches them on the walk home, or they get lost in a public place.
It’s a good idea to sit down with your kids to have such discussions. Don't frighten them, but run through various scenarios, adjusting the response and what you discuss based on the age of the child. Emergency preparedness is a critical skill, for everything from how to deal with strangers and medical situations, to what to do in the event of a natural disaster.
As you consider what to tell your child about dealing with an emergency, here are 10 useful tips.
10 How To Dial 9-1-1
Kids might find it difficult to remember full 10-digit phone numbers. But 9-1-1 are three pretty easy numbers to recall. Make sure your child understands that if there’s ever a serious situation, they have permission to call this number. Maybe it’s when grandpa is babysitting and appears unconscious and unresponsive, or if you’ve been in a car accident and mom and dad are severely injured.
While most of the latest smartphones have facial recognition that even young kids understand how to use, it’s worthwhile to show them how to bypass the lock screen to reach emergency services and call 9-1-1 if needed. Talk about the different scenarios when dialing 9-1-1 is OK, and the importance of only ever using it when necessary.
9 What To Do If They’re Lost in a Public Place
Getting lost in a public place can be terrifying for both the children and the parents. Whether it’s an outdoor amusement park or an indoor shopping center, tell kids to look for someone who works there.
Usually, they are pretty easily identifiable via a uniform or nametag. A dutiful employee will contact you over a P.A. system or take the child to a designated area. Make sure the child knows never to go with another stranger or leave the area they’re in to try and find you.
8 How to Avoid Talking to Strangers
This is one of the earliest and most basic lessons for kids to learn: don’t ever talk to strangers, unless mom and dad, or another supervising adult, is present. They don’t need to be rude, but just walk away, or let the person know they’re not allowed to and will not speak to strangers.
Kids need to understand that any adult with good intentions who hears this will respect it and walk away. If someone is pressing for a conversation, simply leave and head back to where it’s safe, whether it’s on the school grounds, over to where your parent is at the park, or inside your house.
7 Not To Give Out Your Personal Information
Should any adult approach a child, it’s important they understand to never, ever give out any personal information, like home address or name. Even if the person suggests that mom and dad sent them, and they’re a “friend,” or that they just want the child to try out this cool new video game they have in the truck, or a new ice cream bar flavor, don’t fall for it.
Some parents give kids a code word that they can ask someone to repeat – if mom or dad legitimately sent the person because it was an emergency, the person would know the code word, right? If they don’t, well sorry, but it’s time to go. It’s worth adding in this day and age that kids should never give out their personal information online either, and alert mom and dad should a stranger try to contact them through an app.
6 How to Administer an Epipen
It might seem like a lot to put on a child, but when an allergic reaction happens, life and death could be a matter of seconds. So it’s important to teach children, particularly older ones, how to administer an Epipen in the event of an emergency.
This might be telling a child how to do it on him or herself, or a sibling how to do it for a brother or sister. Chances are a supervising adult will be around to handle things. But if the kids are alone in their room, for example, when a reaction happens, it’s critical they know how to use the devices as well.
5 How to Help Someone Who’s In Water
Whether your child is an amazing swimmer or not, there are things he or she can do to help someone in trouble at the beach or a pool. Basic water safety skills include knowing to reach out to someone who’s drowning with a kickboard, towel, or floatation device of some sort they can hang onto until an adult can come help.
Older children can also benefit from CPR lessons that teach them how to open someone’s airway or even attempt to resuscitate.
4 The Heimlich Maneuver
Yes, believe it or not, kids as young as 5 can potentially learn how to do the Heimlich Maneuver, which can help someone who’s choking.
Again, kids might be the last resort to help. But if there’s no one else around, it’s a useful skill for a child to have if it could mean helping save a friend or family member who has something lodged in his or her throat.
3 What To Do In the Event of a Natural Disaster
If you live somewhere that is often hit with tornados, earthquakes, or other natural disasters, make sure your kids know the proper procedures in the event of such an emergency, such as where to hide or go in the house to stay safe (e.g. the bathtub or basement), where to go or who to call if something happens to mom and dad, and when they should or should not leave the house.
If you have an emergency preparedness kit in the house, make sure your kids know where it is so they can access things like flashlights, candles, food, and water.
2 How to Find a "Safe Place"
Kids need to know specifically what “a safe place” means in the event of different emergency situations. If they’re at school, for example, it might mean with a teacher, or under a desk. In a natural disaster like an earthquake or a hurricane, they need to find somewhere that something won’t potentially fall on them.
And in the event of a fire, they need to know where emergency exits are in your home, cottage, at school, or even in a hotel while you’re away on a family vacation.
1 To Be Aware Of Their Own Medical Conditions and Those of Family Members
An emergency situation could arrive at a time when your child is the only one who can communicate information to first responders and/or medical professionals. Make sure they know the important things to tell, such as that his sister is allergic to penicillin, or that mommy can’t be around latex.
Usually, someone with a severe allergy will wear a medical alert bracelet, but this isn’t always the case.