Our kids need to know how and when to call 911. These fun activities include tips and ideas on teaching this emergency preparedness life skill.
Knowing how and when to call 911 is an important life skill that our kids need to learn as soon as possible. I love that the Cub Scouting program includes this for our younger Scouts.
The Lion adventure, Animal Kingdom, requires that the Lions demonstrate that they know what to do in an emergency. Learning about 911 is a great activity for this requirement.
The Tiger elective adventure, Tiger: Safe and Smart includes activities such as memorizing your address and an emergency contact's phone number.
In the Tiger Cub Scout handbook, you'll find a quiz for the Tigers to circle Yes or No when asked about situations where they might need to call 911.
Frankly, this seems a little boring for first graders. No one wants to go to Cub Scouts and take a test!
Read on for details about some activities that I think will be more fun for the Tigers.
But before the kids play the game, they need to learn a little bit about 911 and how to call it.
What is 911?
911 is an emergency phone number. This is a universal number that anyone may call in case of an emergency to reach police, fire, and ambulance.
This phone number was created to lessen the confusion in people who live in larger cities. Many large cities had multiple emergency departments, so creating 911 as the universal emergency phone number made it easier and quicker for people experiencing a crisis to get help immediately.
Why is 911 Important?
911 provides an easy to remember number that people of all ages, kids included, can easily call in case of an emergency. This universal emergency phone number is important because it allows for people to get help quickly.
Calling 911 signifies that the emergency requires help immediately, and dispatchers can send that help right away.
Because 911 is an emergency phone number that people call to get immediate medical, police and/or fire help, it is never a good idea to prank call 911. The 911 dispatchers have to send help immediately, even if they feel the call is a joke.
This means prank calling 911 could ultimately take away emergency personnel from a real crisis situation. It’s illegal to prank call 911, and the Tigers their parents may get in a lot of trouble with the police. The penalties vary by state.
How to Call 911
With the proliferation of mobile phones, many families don't have landlines any more, but their grandparents or older relatives may. It's important that kids know how to call 911 on different types of phones.
There are three types of phones that kids need to know how to use: mobile phone, cordless landline phone, and corded landline phone.
If you can find corded and cordless phones for landlines, it would be great to have them available for your den meeting. Ask grandparents or check your local thrift store.
Explain that with a corded phone, the call will be placed as soon as you finish dialing the numbers while you have to push the Send button to place a call on cordless and mobile phones.
When to Call 911
Here's a fun game you can play with the Scouts to help them understand when to call 911 and when not to.
Give each Cub Scout a two-sided sign. One side should have 911 on it, and the other side should have 911 crossed out using a red circle with a slash mark in the middle.
You can either make your own signs or download this printable below. The printable has two signs per page. Cut the page in half, and fold each half.
Tell the Tigers that you'll name off different situations. For each one, they need to decide whether or not to call 911 and hold up the appropriate side of the sign.
The following are situations that your child should consider an emergency:
- A medical emergency where someone is hurt
- There is a car accident
- You see someone choking
- One of your friends has an allergic reaction to a bee sting or food
- You see a robbery or someone breaks into your house
- Someone has a gun and is threatening to hurt others
- A stranger is following you home from school
- There is a natural disaster like a tornado, an earthquake, a flood, or a landslide
- You see a fire or an explosion
- A friend falls out of the window and gets hurt
The following situations are not considered emergencies:
- You lost your pet, a special toy or stuffed animal
- Your big brother is picking on you
- You’re practicing a fake emergency
- You’re bored and making a crank call
- You’re lonely
- Your friend falls down and scrapes her knee
- You can't find your favorite toy
- You have an argument with your best friend
Randomly read these off to the kids, and check to make sure they're holding up the appropriate sign.
What to Say to the 911 Operator
Explain to the kids what will happen when they call 911. A dispatcher will probably start by saying, “911. What's your emergency?”
Tell the Tigers to answer all of the dispatcher's questions. They should speak clearly in a tone that's loud enough for the dispatcher to hear them.
Practice “Calling” 911 Game
For this game, you'll need a phone. If it's a corded or cordless phone, make sure it's unplugged. For a mobile phone, tell the kids that they'll pretend to push the buttons.
Note: Some cell phones can call 911 even if there's no service on the phone. Be careful that the kids don't actually press the send button.
Write each of these 10 situations on separate pieces of paper, and have the Cub Scouts each draw one. The situations are also in the document that you can download below.
Tell them that they're going to pretend to call 911 about the situation that they drew.
- Auto accident where people are hurt
- Your Mom won't wake up
- Your friend fell down and hit his head
- You see someone breaking in to your neighbor's house
- Your granddad is having trouble breathing
- You see someone threatening your neighbor with a gun
- Your dad is choking
- Your friend got stung by a bee, and she is allergic to bee stings
- A stranger followed you home from the bus stop
Next, have an adult play the role of the dispatcher. The Scouts will take turns pretending to call 911 using one of the phones. You can have them say “ring ring” after they “dial.”
The dispatcher will answer the phone with, “911. What's your emergency?” The Scout should tell the dispatcher what their emergency is.
The dispatcher should ask the child's name and address. They can also make up other questions to ask like “where do you see the smoke?” or “when did Granddad start having trouble breathing?” depending on the emergency they tell you.
After the child has responded, the dispatcher can give instructions such as “go outside” or “hide in a closet” then say, “I'm sending help, but I want you to stay on the phone with me.” Give each Scout a turn to be the caller.
At the end of the den meeting, remind the kids that 911 is for emergency situations and isn’t to be used for other purposes.
What activities do you use to help teach kids safety procedures? Leave a comment, and let me know!
Yours in Scouting,
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