The best time to prepare for an emergency is before it happens. Make sure your family knows emergency phone numbers and your kids know how to place a call for help.
During an emergency, it's easy to become disoriented and upset, so you need to have all important phone numbers readily available ahead of time.
Write each phone number clearly so that it will be easy for kids to read. Use a pen with dark-colored ink or type it on the computer because pencil or light-colored ink can be harder to read when you're in a hurry or if lights are dim. If you choose to create your own phone list, make sure it includes these numbers:
- emergency medical services: In most places this is 911, but your community may have its own number — check your telephone book if you're unsure.
- poison control center: 1-800-222-1222. This toll-free number will put you in touch with the poison control center in your area.
- hospital emergency room
- fire department
- police department
- your child's doctor
- parents' work
- parents' cell phone and/or pager
- neighbors and/or relatives
Your list should also include known allergies (especially to any medication), medical conditions, and insurance information for all members of the family.
Because accidents can happen in any part of the home, make copies of the completed list and post one near every telephone in the house. Be sure to carry one with you, and keep one in the car as well. In addition, make sure that people who come to the house to watch your children (babysitters or relatives, for example) familiarize themselves with the list.
Teaching Kids How to Call for Help
Even very young children can be taught how to place an emergency call for help.
To place a call to 911 and talk to the operator, your child should know:
- how to dial 911
- his or her full name
- his or her full address
- how to give a short description of the emergency
Have your child practice by speaking into a telephone (make sure the telephone is off). Suggest a situation, such as "Mommy's fallen down the stairs and can't get to the phone. Now what do you do?"
After your child enters the number, prompt him or her with questions that an emergency operator would ask, such as "What is your name?," "Where are you calling from?," and "What is the emergency?" Stress that the description should be short ("Mommy fell down the stairs") and that he or she should try to stay calm. Practice until your child feels comfortable.
No one wants to think about an emergency happening at home, but it's better to face that possibility than to be caught unprepared. So keep emergency numbers close by — it's a small step that could have big consequences.
Reviewed by: Kate M. Cronan, MD
Date reviewed: October 2008