Emergency Preparedness for Children

Helping kids prepare for emergencies

Helping kids cope

Children in particular can feel the stress deeply -- and may react in different ways. The key to helping your children cope is simply by being there and making them feel safe.

Did You Know...

Younger children may cry, whine or wet the bed in emergency situations. Older children may experience an intense fear of injury or separation anxiety. Other common reactions include a fear of the dark, physical pain and eating or sleeping problems.

Teaching your children how to use 9-1-1

Teaching your children how to use 9-1-1 is crucial and could save their lives or yours. Here are four simple steps for teaching your children, no matter how old they are, how to use 9-1-1:

  1. First explain what 9-1-1 is.
  2. Teach them to assess the risks before dialing 9-1-1.
  3. Explain what type of information to give once they have called 9-1-1.
  4. Practice scenarios with them to make them more familiar with the concept without frightening them.

To find out more about how to prepare for a wide range of emergencies, go to GetPrepared.ca.

1) Explain what 9-1-1 is

First, children should be taught when to call 9-1-1. Let them know that they can call this service at any time if they think that one or more people are in danger or are seriously injured. Assessing this kind of situation may not be obvious to children, so they need concrete examples. If your children are young, use simple words and avoid medical terms. For example, you could say: "If you see someone lying on the ground not moving, find an adult immediately.

If no one is around, call 9-1-1."

If someone close to you has a particular health problem, you should explain it to your children. Describe the symptoms and tell them what to do in case this person is not feeling well.

2) Assess the risks before calling 9-1-1

Next, your children must be able to determine whether or not it is safe to call 9-1-1 from where they are. Remind them that they must be somewhere safe before calling 9-1-1. For example, tell them that if there is fire in a room or throughout the house, they are to leave the house immediately and then call 9-1-1. Remember: Calling 9-1-1 from a payphone is free.

Explain to your children that calling 9-1-1 is not a game or a joke. Tell them that every second counts when someone is in danger. An unnecessary 9-1-1 call could prevent someone who is truly in danger from getting help.

3) What to say to 9-1-1

Finally, explain to your children what will happen when they call 9-1-1. Tell them that someone (a man or a woman) will ask them whether they need police, fire or an ambulance. Again, if your children are young, use words that are easy to understand (such as "ambulance" instead of "paramedic"). If your children are very young, briefly explain what each service can do in emergencies or instruct them to tell the person on the line that they need help right away.

Teach them that they are then to describe the situation and say where they are.

The location of the emergency is always asked first, then the name, location and phone number of the caller.

It is important to be as accurate and as clear as possible.

4) Practice / role-play

Familiarize children with emergency situations to help reduce panic or anxiety in case of a real emergency.

For example, you can create a game with scenarios for your children to test their knowledge. Adapt scenarios accordingly to your children's age and development. Practice several times a year so that your children are as prepared as possible to deal with emergencies.

Below are three basic scenarios you can use with your children. The answers are provided in brackets.

Scenario #1

Scenario #2

Scenario #3

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