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I'm a paramedic in a large county, about 800,000 residents.  As such I get to have first hand contact with people in some of the worst times of their life.  Recently I had a situation that drove home something simple we can do to help our children out in a disaster - big or the much more likely small.

More after the squiggle. (yeah, that was a teaser!  But I think this will be worth reading)

Here was the situation

(as best as I can with out violating HIPPA): A parent was driving their children to another place when the car was hit by another car (Motor Vehicle Collision - MVC).  Parent was not using any safety device and was not able to answer questions. Parent also had no ID on them.

The kids were ok, under the age of 8 and were in proper seats with belts. (Note: always wear your seat belts!  This would have been a walk away)  The kids knew their first names, last names but not how to spell them.  They did not know their address beyond the street, and did know the phone number of the parent in the car.  The car was not registered in the name of the parent.  There was a delay in getting ahold of 911 because the oldest kid did not know how to call with a cell phone.

What you can do (and what i'm doing now)

My kids have learned the phone number of the house, address, and how to spell their last names.  That is great, but what happens if no one is home - like in this case. The Parent was the only phone number the kids new, for the house, not the cell.

So, i've started getting my kids to learn a few more numbers: my cell phone, my spouse's cell phone, and a relative who lives near by phone number.  My oldest is also learning my email address and my fathers email.

Another weak spot for my kids, and I'm sure for most people, is calling 911 from a cell phone or from your home phone. (yes, i know many people don't have those things, as they are going the way of the pay phone)

What do I mean by this?  When you call 911, it is very unlikely that it is when you're clam and not in an emergency. (if it is not an emergency, why are you calling? - no, really paramedics often ask this question to our selves…a lot)  When you are in an emergency, you default to the lowest level of training, you slide into "instinctive" mode.

This means you will do what you can do at the instinctive level, and can do complex/fine motor skills only with thought. Think about the fine motor skills needed to call on a cell phone: pull it out, hit the small on button, swipe or press the screen to make a call, place your finger on the right numbers in the right order, and hit send/call.  Then you have to be ready to answer questions.

Now you will be excited, your heart is beating faster, you have stress, you are trying to keep an eye on the person you are calling about and make the call.  And you are an adult.  Think how hard it will be for a kid. This is why you need to practice.

How to practice

Start with your home phone. Un plug it.  Then sit down and talk about safety, when it is ok to call 911 and when it is not. Then have them "make a call" on the unplugged phone for a reason - Fire, medical or reporting a crime.  Play act the call:

You- Ring, Ring - "This is 911, what is the nature of your emergency? Police Fire or Ambulance/Medical?"

Kids- "I need (what) because there is (reason) at (address)."

You - "What is your phone number...What is your name?…What is going on?…[then ask questions about the emergency - like for fire - are you still in the house? is anyone? or are they breathing? etc]

Kids - (answer questions) is it ok to hang up now?"  (always stay on the phone till they tell you it is ok to hang up.)

Then do a roll reversal, where you make the call and they get to be 911.  Do this a few times then stop.  A month later, do it again.  Be sure to do practice like with a cell phone - better if you have an old phone that is not connected to use.

Why this helps.

You build muscle memory by 'making the call".  By answering the questions you get use to stopping your talking to answer a question.  You do what you have trained to the instinctive level.

Here are some examples.  When I did EMS in New York in the mid 90's, a sheriff deputy was at home alone and negligently discharged his service weapon into his leg.  He was hurt and losing blood. Now, he had a habit of calling 411 to get any number he needed (as a sheriff the phone company would not charge him so he used it all the time).  He picked up the phone and dialed 911…except he hit the buttons 411.  He did this five times before he waited till information answered and had them connect him to 911 for help.  His dialing of 411 was such a habit in his excited state he just did what his body said is the thing to do.

The other example is why you dial the number and talk.  (a story i've heard about from several sources and was an example presented to us on why we train like we do in the army)  A police officer learned about how to disarm a person with a gun. He would practice every day with his partner and with his wife.  Using a practice gun (plastic) he would have the partner pull the gun and he would do the move take the gun and then hand it back to his partner to do it again.

He got really good at it.  One day as he walked into a store he came around the food racks and there was a person pointing a gun at him.  Without thinking the move was made and the gun was out of the hands of the bad guy-which i'm sure amazed the robber.  Then the policeman handed the gun back to the guy-which i'm sure amazed and confused the robber.  (at that point the partner of the policeman shot the robber.)

Consider how practicing calling 911 and hanging up as soon as you dial the number could train you for an emergency.  Or calling 911, saying "I have a fire at my house" and hanging up. Not what you want to happen in an emergency.

Preparing for Disaster  

Most disasters are not "The End Of The World As We Know It" but rather small personal events that seldom involve more than your family.  Car collisions, home fires, falls, job loss, heart attacks, robbery, etc.  These are all things knowing how to call 911, knowing the name and phone number of an adult who does not live at the home, could be very helpful.  Or at least make things less stressful knowing your kids can get help if you are not around.

Originally posted to Drill Sgt K on Sat Feb 22, 2014 at 08:42 PM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (123+ / 0-)

    Stupid question hour starts now and ends in five minutes.

    by DrillSgtK on Sat Feb 22, 2014 at 08:42:22 PM PST

  •  Excellent diary! Thank You! It is a good thing to (20+ / 0-)

    train the kids young. Especially with all the phones and devices these days. When I was a kid, a phone hung on the wall with a cord. But my folks drilled us with our address and phone number at a very young age.

    if a habitat is flooded, the improvement for target fishes increases by an infinite percentage...because a habitat suitability index that is even a tiny fraction of 1 is still infinitely higher than zero, which is the suitability of dry land to fishes.

    by mrsgoo on Sat Feb 22, 2014 at 08:54:55 PM PST

  •  I'm surprised the children didn't know (9+ / 0-)

    their address or how to spell their name. My daughter just turned five, and she has known these things for longer than I can remember. I thought I was being paranoid to drill them into her, but nearly every parent fears losing their child and the child not being able to get help finding their way home. Now I realize there is another reason for this teaching - I might need help!

    As for dialing 911 on a cell phone, the simple solution is to have it programmed as "1" on your speed dial. Easy enough to remember to press and hold "1". Then "2" for momma, "3" for grandma, etc. Speed dial is great for young children! And easy for adults in panic situations, too...

    •  I'm not sure I'd agree with doing that - primarily (9+ / 0-)

      because that kid would be screwed if they didn't have that programmed phone.

      They should learn the real numbers first (in my "admittedly don't have any young kids" opinion).

      If I had young-uns, I'd have a set of dog tags for each -- if not an RFID chip.

      I also think they should learn multiplication tables, long division and writing without computers and spell-check :)

      Signature (this will be attached to your comments)

      by here4tehbeer on Sat Feb 22, 2014 at 09:49:40 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I agree - learn the numbers so they can use any (0+ / 0-)

        phone.  You don't save that much time dialing one number vs. three.  Speed dial works differently on different phones, as well.

        Lead your life - don't let your life lead you.

        by lineatus on Mon Feb 24, 2014 at 06:59:16 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Different parents focus on different things. (8+ / 0-)

      My mother walked me through all that stuff when I was little, but most other kids--didn't know all of that.

      I drill my kids regularly on phone numbers, how to spell first and last names, they know our first and last names, their address, town, county, state, etc.,

      Maybe living in Tornado Alley makes some of us a little more conscientious about this. I worry about getting separated.

      You can also put luggage tags inside of their backpacks with all that information too. Or sew it inside a coat or shoe. That way if they get separated during a disaster or accident, there is something that the first responders can find, to help them get your child documented and to call the right people.

      "It were a thousand times better for the land if all Witches, but especially the blessing Witch, might suffer death." qtd by Ehrenreich & English. For Her Own Good, Two Centuries of Expert's Advice to Women pp 40

      by GreenMother on Sun Feb 23, 2014 at 06:57:13 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Important Note (6+ / 0-)

        If you do the luggage tag thing, put it inside the backpack.
        You can attach it with a lanyard inside the backpack.  

        You don't want perfect strangers coming up to your children knowing their name, addy and phone number just by glancing at the pack as your child walks by.

        "It were a thousand times better for the land if all Witches, but especially the blessing Witch, might suffer death." qtd by Ehrenreich & English. For Her Own Good, Two Centuries of Expert's Advice to Women pp 40

        by GreenMother on Sun Feb 23, 2014 at 07:09:57 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  I often did not know when I was a kid (3+ / 0-)

      Primarily because my family moved all the time. It's difficult to memorize an address and phone number when it changes every four or five months.

      Time is of no account with great thoughts, which are as fresh to-day as when they first passed through their authors' minds ages ago. - Samuel Smiles

      by moviemeister76 on Sun Feb 23, 2014 at 12:05:49 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  it's better for them to call 9-1-1 (6+ / 0-)

      in case they are in an emergency situation without the pre-programmed phone

      also, always tell them it is nine one one because some kids will look in vain for the "eleven" button on a phone and get confused when they do not find one

      Politics is like driving. To go backward put it in R. To go forward put it in D.
      Drop by The Grieving Room on Monday nights to talk about grief.

      by TrueBlueMajority on Sun Feb 23, 2014 at 01:17:59 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Excellent & needful diary!!!! Thank you! It is (27+ / 0-)

    stunning what one can just blank out on during an emergency.  

    I discovered this during a 911 call when I suddenly could not recall my address!

     It was weird because I thought I was very calm while reporting that my next door neighbors house was on fire & she was trapped upstairs & screaming....

    Fortunately my brain kicked back in.  After everything calmed down, I put our names, address, phone number, subdivision & cross street on large index cards & placed one next to each phone.

    I also added ICE to the cell phones.

    When my bio kiddos were very young we would have emergency drills every month.  Practiced crawling down stairs, etc.  Where the safe meet up spot was, where to go in a tornado, what to do if your clothes were on fire or someone else's clothes were on fire, etc.

     Being kids, they had fun slithering down stairs & out the door, etc & so were not traumatized/scared.  

    I recently asked my now middle aged kiddos if they ever thought I was very weird doing this & they emphatically said no (about this, heh) & they advocate doing the same to friends & with their own kiddos.

    The reason I thought to do this with my kiddos was due to another neighbor's house fire in another city.  I could hear her screaming & ran outside.  She was running in circles screaming that her house was on fire.  

    Her elderly parents lived with them, 3 kids-one who was autistic & deaf, her dad had cancer & was very weak.  No sign of them.  I finally threatened to slap her to find out where they all were.  Stunned her momentarily since I am so mild mannered but it made no difference.

    Fortunately, another neighbor had them at the side of the house.  I took them to my home & went back to try to get my neighbor-who was still screaming & going in circles- to come with me.  Finally succeeded-with a lot of help from others.

    This neighbor's husband was a fireman.

    I wasted no time training my kiddos after that incident.  I included neighborhood kiddos any chance I could.

    You are so correct-practice & just knowing what to do will auto kick in unless your mind happens to go blank like mine did that one time.  Or freak out like my neighbor did.

  •  I do this in my preschool class every year (23+ / 0-)

    The kids (age 4-preK) learn not only their names, but parents' names as well- esp last names.  Today- even if parents are married, it is not correct to assume the names are the same.  In more times than not- they're not.

    Most parents gave me the emergency number, and the kids learn that one as well as their own.  

    Sadly- we started '911' drills after the school shooting at Newtown.  The phones we have in the classroom has a "911" button, but I teach them to 'dial'.

    The kids know the name and address of the school, their own names and addresses, the 'emergency' person' and how to call 911.

    Very sad lessons to have to learn at age 4.

    Growing old is inevitable...Growing up is purely optional

    by grannycarol on Sat Feb 22, 2014 at 09:46:09 PM PST

  •  May I offer one other suggestion? (14+ / 0-)

    Since we are absentee grandparents several hundred miles away, I would suggest:

    Make sure your young children know the full name and number of another local adult or couple to contact in case of emergency.  We always worried a medical emergency or car wreck might leave our boys on their own and made sure they had this information in the unlikely situation a parent was unable to be there fot them.

    The truth always matters.

    by texasmom on Sat Feb 22, 2014 at 10:13:11 PM PST

  •  my 15 month old grandbaby has mastered (9+ / 0-)

    her name... will work on the rest!

    i was a RN so i prepared my kids: they knew their name, address and phone # by the time they were 4 - just in case (and because of your diary, i see i forgot to include teaching them my closest friend's #-- will do that with grandbaby!).  but there were no cell phones 25 yrs ago to speak of - at least we parents didn't have any.

    great "heads up" diary!   thank you!

    Faux News ruined my state

    by sc kitty on Sat Feb 22, 2014 at 10:48:28 PM PST

  •  Thank you, SgtK!!! (8+ / 0-)

    This is life saving stuff! My grandkids are young, 5 and 4, but I am drilling this stuff in to them, and am getting them bracelets with this info. As often as they are at risk on the road back and forth to school, it's critical.

    The trouble ain't that there is too many fools, but that the lightning ain't distributed right. Mark Twain

    by BlueMississippi on Sat Feb 22, 2014 at 11:18:45 PM PST

  •  I could not agree enough (15+ / 0-)

    My family takes annual vacations at a lakeside property that has been in the family for generations.  

    When I was 12 or so, my grandmother took a horrible spill on the stone path leading from the lake to the cottage.  She was delirious when I found her and her shoulder had swollen to the size of a grapefruit - and my father and step mother were on the other side of the lake fishing.  We were alone.

    I knew what to do - I ran to the phone and dialed 911.  But I did not know the address or the phone number from where I was calling - the cottage was always called "Up North" and that was no help to the dispatcher.

    Thankfully because it was also very small town they knew from my family's name where I was.  Help arrived in minutes, which was enough time for me to treat Grandma for shock (without moving her; thank you, Girl Scouts), and scream for my parents from the end of the pier.  Grandma spent the rest of the vacation and some time after in the hospital, but she lived.  The doctors told me that my actions saved her life.

    May I suggest a plan for when you are on vacation as well - even if the vacation spot is well known to all?  The address and phone number remains taped to that phone to this day because of what happened.  But i still can't shake feeling bad that I didn't have the right information at the right time (and yes, I know I did the absolute best I could have in the moment)

    Excellent diary, thank you!

    "Spread happiness" -KO

    by gloriana on Sun Feb 23, 2014 at 05:35:08 AM PST

  •  way back in my sword-fighting days (10+ / 0-)

    (yes, I was pretty good with a broadsword when I was younger), my instructor taught me a valuable lesson.  He said "In a time of stress and excitement, you will do what you were trained to do--and you'll do it exactly the way that you trained to do it."

    That lesson carries over to virtually everything.

    In the end, reality always wins.

    by Lenny Flank on Sun Feb 23, 2014 at 07:04:08 AM PST

  •  Set it to some tune and action (4+ / 0-)

    I thought my daughter to sing our home address and the phone number. It went with a silly story too.

    William the young boy was playing in the drive way. He got into the car on the driveway and started playing with the buttons and steering. Suddenly the car roared into life and started going. William was scared. He did not how to stop the car.

    It went on and on and on till it reached Ohio. It stopped when it ran out of gas. William did not know where he was. He did not know how to to get home. He was scared. Very very scared.

    And... what did he see then? (eyes gleaming... with excitement...) she would chime in, "the police uncle!" (an Indianism, all elders are uncles and aunties, and uncle/auntie qualifier is always trailing not leading). He ran to the police uncle and cried, "I don't know where I am. I wanna go home. I wanna mommy, I wanna daddy". Police uncle asked, "Who are you? Where is your home? Who is your mommy?"

    Then William, being such a smart boy, remembered his address, and phone number, it was, (we all sing together, for that silly tune) " one zero five zero .... avenue ... xxxburg ... xxx02 phone number x y z a b c d e f g". (Curiously William seems to be living in our home, though we had never seen him ;-))

    Police uncle took out his radio, called his office called home got Willims dad. Daddy was so happy to see William. You are very smart sweetie you would never ...(her turn) "touch the car switch". You will always, "ask police uncle for help".

    We know the song, the tune and the address to this day, 20 years later.

    •  Tune/Song Does Work! (3+ / 0-)

      As a college student I babysat for a "caboose" cousin( my siblings are the oldest on both sides of the family.  So there are a couple 13-16 years younger than myself.) My Aunt & Uncle had taught little Em her name, address, phone number to a little tune.  I knew that, and we practiced it when I baby sat.  Twenty years later, I can 'sing' that tune.  

      Practical, useful and important advice in this diary!

  •  As a kid, 1st grade iirc, (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    worldlotus, BlackSheep1

    we practiced walking home from school. We had a plan on when we might need to do that. We took several different routes, in case one might be cut off for whatever reason. We also knew the name and number of mom's best friend.
    Good diary, thanks.

    Only thing more infuriating than an ignorant man is one who tries to make others ignorant for his own gain. Crashing Vor

    by emmasnacker on Sun Feb 23, 2014 at 09:13:16 AM PST

  •  As a former 911 operator I applaud this (4+ / 0-)

    diary.. Also be sure to tell your children to try and this is the hardest try and stay calm but this is near impossible..especially if there is blood or fire.  A 911 operator has to really get down on a child's level if there is no adult to speak to them and children usually get beyond hysterical when upset.Children cannot handle stress normally.  If they can be coached by parents to say, if we ever get in trouble or sick, please be the big person so the police and ambulance can help us.. I remember talking like Minnie Mouse to a child who started a house fire to find out where the fire was exactly ( before 911 could direct me digitally where the fire was ) and to insturct them to crawl out of the house on knees... Very stressful to kids and if children are prepared for the unthinkable...lives can be saved.

    We the People have to make a difference and the Change.....Just do it ! Be part of helping us build a veteran community online. United Veterans of America

    by Vetwife on Sun Feb 23, 2014 at 11:25:06 AM PST

  •  ICE: In Case of Emergency (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Has been ongoing in the EU for ages.  You put the name, number and address of your ER contact in your phone under ICE.  Do it, it works!

    ~Arianna_Editrix-- I willingly accept Cassandra’s fate, To speak the truth, altho’ believ’d too late

    by Arianna Editrix on Sun Feb 23, 2014 at 01:26:19 PM PST

    •  put a sticker on the window / door (0+ / 0-)

      for EMS/ FD if you have kids / pets inside -- and keep it current (put a date on it!) I would hate to have firefighters risk themselves trying to locate college-aged kids or kitties long over the Bridge because the humans didn't remember to fix the stickers.

      also: there's a program called Vial of Life
      that helps prepare grownups (and elderly folks) for emergencies by putting critical ICE info in a safe place, and alerting responders to that.

      LBJ, Van Cliburn, Ike, Wendy Davis, Lady Bird, Ann Richards, Barbara Jordan, Molly Ivins, Sully Sullenburger, Drew Brees: Texas is NO Bush League!

      by BlackSheep1 on Mon Feb 24, 2014 at 09:46:09 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thank you, great diary! My mom was a stickler (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    for this. Happily, when he needed to get emergency help, my FOUR year old son just kept repeating my mother's phone number to the police because she'd helped him memorize it.

    Okay, the Government says you MUST abort your child. NOW do you get it?

    by Catskill Julie on Sun Feb 23, 2014 at 06:12:24 PM PST

  •  Being prepared is a good thing but ... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BlackSheep1 far to go to prepare them.  Do we just discuss it the issues and repetitively walk and talk them through various scenarios?  OK, can do but add to the mix trauma and resultant outcomes of injuries.  Many if not most adults panic or at least have difficulty getting the necessary words out to get the message across. We focus our kids and grandkids  on how to properly use a cell phone and say "I need help".  The trained people on the other end know how to coax the needed info out of them.  That includes parents names, home address, home phone number. As they got older we change the rules to if there's no bleeding or broken bones or no threat to your us (adults) first call 911.

    Our nations quality of life is based on the rightousness of its people.

    by kalihikane on Sun Feb 23, 2014 at 06:57:15 PM PST

    •  How far do you go? (5+ / 0-)

      I think with all things it comes down to time and money.

      Time is the real cost with this, but it can be good time. It is family time that with the ideas from above can be fun.  But if you just keep going on and on adding new and more complex scenarios you may end up wasting time.

      Hurricanes are very unlikely here, tornado's are very likely.  I don't see the need for hurricane "what if's"…now florida..

      There area always things you have not prepared for.  I thought I had prepared my kids till I made this call.  Suddenly the whole in my preps was in view.  So I made a change.

      We have 30 days of food saved up with a goal of 90 days.  When I was away on training we had a two week gap with out pay that we lived off the food storage.  Only to find some key things missing.

      By sharing ideas, I love the expand on it as they get older, we as a community get stronger and more resilient.  When we have a resilient community there is less conflict between people and we are better able to help those in need.  I feel much better about staying out in an ice storm doing EMS because I know my family is take care of and they will help our neighbors.

      Stupid question hour starts now and ends in five minutes.

      by DrillSgtK on Sun Feb 23, 2014 at 08:21:03 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I thought the suggestion to unplug the phone (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    And use it practice handling an emergency situation with your kids is an excellent idea.

    "It's not surveillance, it's data collection to keep you safe"

    by blackhand on Mon Feb 24, 2014 at 06:43:52 AM PST

  •  Great Diary, Thanks....a note on bike riding (0+ / 0-)

    I take my 3 year old on bike rides and one day I realized I did not have my wallet or phone, and my kid had no ID.  If I'd have fallen and been knocked out, we'd have been screwed.  I have since ordered a RoadID (google it...they're overpriced, but worth it) bracelet for him to wear with his name, my number, mom's number, and 2 of his aunt's numbers (it can hold up to 4).  

    I also ordered a Road ID bracelet and put it on my bike frame in case I forget my wallet/phone again (could have used a label sticker as well).  I also printed out the same info on our label maker and stuck it inside and outside the back of his helmet.  

    I'm sure there are other good places to stick labels with that information so your kids have it handy (iPad, Backpacks, etc.).

    •  henry: there's an alternative (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      get one of those rubber bracelets, for $2 or so at e.g. Target; put a preprinted address label on the bracelet, and wrap the label with clear packing tape. (Put the label facing inward if you want to keep strangers from taking advantage!)

      We do the same thing with backpacks -- the ID goes inside, usually on the underneath portion of the top flap.

      LBJ, Van Cliburn, Ike, Wendy Davis, Lady Bird, Ann Richards, Barbara Jordan, Molly Ivins, Sully Sullenburger, Drew Brees: Texas is NO Bush League!

      by BlackSheep1 on Mon Feb 24, 2014 at 09:49:12 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  "Be prepared" -- people forget that. nt (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
  •  As kids get older, you can add first aid (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BlackSheep1, DrillSgtK

    and CPR training.  Our local fire dept will train them at 10 or 11.  Even if they don't certify (depends on the agency), learning the skills and feeling confident can help in an emergency.  Especially because, except for first responders, it's more likely you will need CPR for someone in your family than for a stranger.

    Our local guy is really good with them, explaining even some of the difficult stuff because he says that too many people who teach CPR have never actually done it, and it is NOT like the manequin.  So my teenagers know that a dying person will PPP:  Puke, pee and poop.  And I hope because they know that, they would be less grossed out and more aware that the person needs help.  

    My daughter (15) burned her hand while home alone last week.  She texted me, and I started down the drill about what to do.... and got a MOM!  I'm 15 and I've had first aid training.

    If you took the greed out of Wall Street all you’d have left is pavement ~Robert Reich

    by k8dd8d on Mon Feb 24, 2014 at 09:15:10 AM PST

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