Dialing Dangers: 911 lessons in a digital age

Local News

It’s a nightmare know one hopes becomes a reality … a young child is faced with the responsibility of calling 9-1-1 in an emergency situation.

In our special report, “Dialing Dangers” we address the important issue that the days of simply teaching a child to only push 9-1-1 on a keypad are over.

“We actually take more cell phone calls than landline calls,” according to Roanoke County Communications Training Coordinator Paige DeSilvey.

As technology evolves, so to must the lessons we teach our children.

After testing several children at an area kindergarten class, we discovered quite a few needed some prompting on how to use a smartphone before they could get through to 9-1-1 dispatchers.  In an emergency, there can be a lot more chaos, and unfortunately, the adult in the room may be the one in need of help, and won’t be able to help a child call for help.

However, the good thing that came from the lesson, every child was willing to try their hand at calling the dispatch center and learned valuable lessons.

Cynthia Saunders, the children’s teacher said, “I think kids are willing to try, even if they make a mistake. Adults don’t want to make a mistake. They want to get it right.”

Teaching a child their address is one old-school lesson that still rings true. Landlines can be tracked, but cell phones can be more challenging.

“While we can track them, it usually takes a little bit longer to do that. So it does delay response if you don’t know where you are. A lot of times it will get us down to 350 feet of an address or something like that, maybe 36 feet. It depends largely on what type of technology that person has. What type phone that person has,” says DeSilvey, who adds, “We have phase one and phase two. Phase one will not give us a location, but phase two will. So your newer cell phones are phase two, but we still have some who still have the old flip phone.”

In the article, 5 Things Every Parent Needs To Teach Their Child In The Digital Age, the author also points out how important it is for a child to know where a cell phone is located. It could be in a pocket or mom’s purse, causing valuable time to be wasted just to search for the phone.

You can also find valuable tips, from such cell phone providers, as Verizon, on Teaching Children How to Call 911.

If you don’t have a landline, keep in mind old phones that are no longer a part of your service plan, will still call 911. If you don’t have a landline, you could charge an old phone and put it in a set spot that everyone in the family can find in case of an emergency.

As for the Roanoke kindergartners who Paige DeSilvey taught, they caught on quickly.

“They were very smart. All they had to do was see it one time,” says Saunders.

One child did accidentally call through to the 911 call center, which taught the class another valuable lesson … always stay on the line, so you can tell the dispatcher everything is O.K. Otherwise they will send help unnecessarily.

It’s power no one hopes these kids will ever have to use, but knowledge that will allow the kindergartners to connect with 911 dispatchers in a matter of seconds.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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