First Responders Tips on Teaching Children to Call 9-1-1

September 17, 2019

The Charles County Volunteer Firemen’s Association, Inc, and Charles County Association of Emergency Medical Services, Inc. provided useful tips for teaching children, and even adults on how to call 9-11 and provide useful and needed information to the 911 call takers, dispatchers, and first responders.

  • Do Not use the term “nine-eleven” since there is no 11 (eleven) key on the telephone pad.
  • Explain the purpose of 9-1-1 and give them examples and scenarios when to dial 9-1-1.
  • Make sure your children know their address and phone number.
  • Teach your children their full name and the full name of their parents.
  • Instruct your children to look at their surroundings when they’re not home.
  • Looking at street signs, and street numbers on buildings and homes, etc.
  • Make sure they know how to use a landline and cell phone. Especially
  • Holding the correct end to their ear and mouth.
  • Advise the children during a fire or burglary, to get out of the residence first and then call 9-1-1.
  • Make sure your children know to follow the instructions of the call taker. Tell them to stay on the phone until they are told to hang up.
  • If they dial 9-1-1 by mistake, stay on the line until a call taker answer. They should let the call taker know it was an accident and not an emergency.
  • Instruct children to call only when there is an actual emergency.

As for adults calling 9-1-1. These five tips can not only help the ones in need, but the dispatches and first responders as well.

  1. Check the scene. Your own safety is the first thing to consider. It’s happened many times that well-meaning bystanders rush in to help and end up another casualty. You should pause to take a few deep breaths and check for smoke, fire, downed wires, strange smells, and unusual sounds. If they feel a sense of danger, don’t get any closer. Once you’re sure the scene is safe and you’ve called 911, make it secure for the emergency medical services (EMS) who are about to arrive by turning on an outside light so we can see the house number, putting any dogs away, and unlocking the door. If you forget to do this in the moment, the dispatcher on the phone will likely remind you.
  2. Don’t panic. Trite but true. You will be so much more useful to the dispatcher, the EMS, and whoever you’ve called 911 for if you can stay as calm as possible. Obviously 911 involves an emergency and people can be very upset. A person will call and not answer questions, or just start saying, ‘Send someone, send someone now.’” Being too panicked to think straight can cause delays in getting help to you, since the dispatcher has a list of questions to get through to assess the situation, and unclear answers can cause confusion that leads them to send the wrong kind of service (i.e., sending the fire trucks when you need an ambulance.) Take some deep breaths and focus on the job at hand.
  3. Give your location. Your location is one of the two most important details you need to give the dispatcher. The caller should provide the best information they can; this will expedite response. We do need to know where we are going. While the popularity of cell phones has made it easier to call emergency services than ever before (and reduced the number of people who die at the scene), it’s actually harder to pinpoint a cell phone’s location compared to a good old fashioned landline. That’s why you need to be as precise and accurate as possible when giving your location. The dispatcher will ask for the address twice to make sure it’s right and is very helpful to provide a house description to the dispatcher. If there is an extra person who can stand outside to flag down the ambulance, that usually speeds our response even more because we can see the ‘flagger’ and go right to them, instead of having to slow down and look at house numbers on mailboxes.
  4. Give as much medical information as you can. This is the other most important information the dispatcher needs. Dispatchers mainly want to know the specific reason for the call, like someone has stopped breathing, fallen badly, or they’re showing signs of a heart attack or stroke. They might also ask about existing medical conditions, what happened right before the emergency, and if this has happened to them before. A more extensive medical history is more important to the EMS members once they arrive on scene. Any medical information while waiting for the EMS: Ideally they would like to have the patient’s main medical history and medications, last surgical procedures, and what hospital the patient is usually treated at. Make sure the information you’re giving is accurate.
  5. Listen to the dispatcher. Once the dispatcher has assessed the initial information you’ve given them, they may ask you more questions while EMS are on their way. First responders are typically dispatched almost immediately, but the dispatcher will stay on the line with the caller to gather more information for the responders while they are en-route. How long you’re on the phone for varies; someone passing by a situation that strikes them as odd who calls 911 might be off the phone in under two minutes. Someone calling 911 for a loved one they’re with will likely be on the phone until help arrives. If you aren’t sure of your location, the dispatcher might stay on the line to help guide the EMS responders to you; in this case, the dispatcher may listen for the sound of the siren and relay that information to the crew. In addition, dispatchers often coach callers through basic but essential first aid, especially CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation).

There is a national push to have dispatchers provide CPR instructions. Research has shown that the faster CPR is initiated, fast chest compressions, the better the chance of survival in cardiac arrest. Dispatches will encourage someone to start CPR immediately and coach the bystander until first responders arrive. Suddenly feeling like you’re in charge of someone else’s life is daunting, but if you can remember these five things and work with the medical professionals who are there to do their jobs, you’re doing the best you can in a tough situation.

If you or someone you know may be looking to provide aid and service to the public and local communities. You can fill out an application here for Charles County:

St. Mary’s County applications can be found here:

Volunteer Opportunities with Fire/Rescue/EMS Stations in Calvert County: Please call:410-535-1600, ext. 2668 Fax: 443-486-4074 or mail to: Fire/Rescue/EMS Office Recruitment and Retention Specialist at 175 Main Street, Courthouse Prince Frederick, MD 20678