A 7-year-old boy in the news today called 911 during a home invasion and saved his family. That makes me even happier that my 4-year-old daughter knows how to dial 911, too.
Let the neighborhood beware. At 4 years old, our daughter can call up an emergency dispatcher and let him know that Mommy has fallen or there's a bad man in the house.
Living near a firehouse and next door to a police officer, we have found that teaching our daughter about emergency responders has been a fairly easy task. At 2 years old, she took off running across our lawn when the firemen drove by on drill night, screaming, "Wait for me guys, I'm coming." (Did I mention she'd been helping Daddy wash off the cars, and she'd just stripped off her sopping wet clothes?)
Her state of undress didn't faze her in the least; as far as she knew, someone was in trouble and she wanted to help.
So when an acquaintance asked if teaching my daughter 911 this early wasn't setting her up to abuse it, I could answer easily: No, not at all.
Because along with teaching her the steps, we've used the people she sees on a regular basis as examples of who will come when she calls -- and explained why their time is precious. It's an all-volunteer fire department, so their efforts should be particularly appreciated, and at 4 she knows that we shouldn't call them away from their little girls and boys without cause.
If anything, I wonder if we started late. If maybe she should have known this at 3, or even 2. If this shouldn't be added to the curriculum of every preschool in the country.
Because somehow, kids aren't learning a skill that could help them should they be accidentally separated from their parents at the mall, and if they are -- heaven forbid -- grabbed by a predator.
A teenager from Florida recently made the news for texting his parents in the middle of a home invasion, asking them to call police rather than just doing it himself. Some have praised him for at least hiding in his room and being smart enough to reach out to his parents. But a simple lesson on the emergency system would have taught him that reaching out to emergency responders first is the fastest way to get help; that even with a cell phone, your call can be traced, so you don't have to say a word to the dispatcher -- you just make the call.
The ability to track calls is one of 911's chief assets when dealing with kids, and yet another reason we CAN start our kids young. Your son or daughter may not be able to recite their address yet-- or even their full name -- but if they can toddle over to the phone when you fall down the basement steps, they could save your life.
|Jeanne Sager is a mom to Jillian and a writer from upstate New
York. She's strung words together for Babble.com, Kiwi Magazine and AOL's Holidash, and she shares her award-winning weekly newspaper column on her blog, Inside Out.