In an emergency, calling 9-1-1 is best choice

Making the call quickly

CALL 911! Sounds simple, right? But what is really an emergency? And what should you expect when you call 9-1-1? Do your children or grandchildren know how to call, in case something happened to you?

When you are teaching kids about calling 9-1-1, make sure they understand what an emergency is. Asking questions like, “What would you do if we had a fire in our house?” or “What would you do if grandpa fell down and he couldn’t talk?” gives you a chance to talk about emergencies and what to do if one happens.

Explain that calling 9-1-1 is a way to get the best person to come and help. It might be a firefighter, a police officer, or an ambulance driver, or it might be all three! However, it’s important to only call when it really is an emergency. Calling 9-1-1 as a prank is a crime. Calling when it’s not really an emergency takes time away from people who need help.

On the other hand, we hear from 9-1-1 dispatchers that people often wait too long to call. In particular, if someone is having stroke or heart attack symptoms, it’s better to call 9-1-1 right away, even if you find out later that the symptoms were not a heart attack or stroke.

People of any age may feel nervous about calling 9-1-1. Emergencies are often chaotic, scary situations. It’s easier said than done, but it is critically important to stay calm when you make that call, and listen closely to the questions that the dispatcher will be asking. Explain to kids that the people who answer the phone talk to a lot of kids and grownups who are scared when they call.

Children need to know that even though they shouldn’t give personal information to strangers, it’s OK to trust the 9-1-1 operator. Explain that the dispatcher will ask them what, where, and who questions such as: “What is the emergency, Where are you located, Who is with you?”

Give the dispatcher all the information you can about what the emergency is and how it happened. Depending on the age and abilities of the caller, dispatchers may give first-aid instructions so you can start to help before emergency workers arrive at the scene.

Did you know that September is National Preparedness Month? It’s a good reminder to check these basic safety tips:

¯ Make sure your house number is clearly visible from the street so that police, fire, or ambulance workers can easily locate your address.

¯ If you live in an apartment building, make sure your child knows the apartment number and floor you live on.

¯ Keep a list of emergency phone numbers on the fridge or someplace where it’s easy to see.

¯ Get a first-aid kit and make sure your kids and babysitters know where to find it.

¯ Take that first aid and CPR class you’ve been meaning to take. You’ll be glad you did!

CHQ 250 is an initiative of the Chautauqua Health Action Team (CHAT), encouraging you to take action to be one of at least 250 strokes, heart attacks, or related deaths prevented in Chautauqua County in the coming year. This column is written by CHAT members to share information to help you to do your part to live a life free of stroke or heart disease; it is not intended to replace advice provided by your healthcare team. Please direct questions or comments to: activecounty@co.chautauqua.ny.us.

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