Emergency: Helping Young Children Communicate with Emergency Responders

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While we have all heard the heroic stories of a toddler calling 911 and saving his mother’s life, this type of call is rare. Most young children are hesitant to call 911 and even more reluctant to talk to the stranger on the other end of the line.

If you are dispatcher or other type of emergency responder how can you help a young child communicate? Use these Everyday EMS Tips:

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1. Use the child’s name. By using their name, you will keep their attention, and they will know you are talking to them. “Kevin, where is your mom right now? Can you tell me exactly what happened?”

2. Be reassuring. Make sure the child knows you are sending help. “Kevin, an ambulance is on the way to help your mom. We will get there as soon as we can.”

3. Speak slowly. As dispatchers, we often speak very quickly. Slow down when talking to a young child. Help them slow down, too. “I know it is hard to remember your address. Take a deep breath. Let’s figure this out. Is the address written on your phone?”

4. Show kindness and patience. A young child will be very scared during an emergency. Although you may be very busy, remember that the child may be alone in a very frightening situation. “Kevin, you did the right thing by calling 911. I am proud of you.”

5. Tell the child what is going to happen. “When the ambulance gets to your house, they are going to knock on the door, then they will come in your house. There will be three people there to help your mom. They are going to need you to show them where your mom is. You can do that, right?”

Use the child’s name, be reassuring, speak slowly, show kindness and patience, and tell the child what is going to happen. Use the same level of respect when talking with a young child that you use when speaking with an adult.

How else do you help young children communicate during an emergency? Share your tips in the comments area.