How to dial 9-1-1 could be the most important lesson this school year

With children back to school, B.C.’s largest 9-1-1 centre wants to make sure they are properly prepared to call 9-1-1 in an emergency

Vancouver, B.C. – Children as young as four years old are being given personal mobile devices, potentially leaving many parents with a false sense of security in the capabilities of these phones in young hands. Because kids navigate apps and screens independently and with so much ease, it’s easy to overlook teaching 9-1-1 basics, which are essential to make cellphones an effective tool in an emergency situation.

E-Comm is urging parents to take some time during back-to-school preparations to also teach children about dialing 9-1-1 from their phones – it’s a lesson that could save lives.

“As a 9-1-1 call taker and a mom, it really scares me to think that parents might be relying on their kids’ cellphones to keep them safe instead of talking to them about how to dial for help in an emergency,” says E-Comm call taker and mother of two, Heather Andrews. “A couple of years ago, I spoke with my son’s grade one class and, honestly, a lot of them understood the basics better than most adults. It’s all about keeping things simple and relatable.”

Andrews adds that most parents assume that providing a cellphone to their child will pinpoint their location information but “unlike landlines, a cellphone won’t provide anyone’s exact location to 9-1-1 call takers and it can slow down the process of getting a caller help if they can’t tell where they are.”

To help parents and caretakers teach kids about 9-1-1, E-Comm has the following tips:

  1. Explain to kids when to call 9-1-1 in simple words that are easy to understand.
    • If they or someone else are “really sick or hurt”
    • If they “smell / see smoke or fire”
    • If they feel in danger or “see someone doing something very bad like stealing or hurting someone”
  2. Teach kids their address (including apartment numbers and building entry codes) and keep that information close to all phones. Practise looking for street signs and having them be able to identify their location when they aren’t at home.
  3. Show kids how to dial 9-1-1 from all landlines and cellphones they might have access to as dialing can be different depending on the device.
  4. Explain that the 9-1-1 call taker will ask questions about where they are located / what’s happening and they should listen carefully and answer as best as they can.
  5. Try role-playing a mock emergency situation. This helps kids understand what to do and when to call when faced with a real life situation. It’s important to note that even cellphones with no service can still dial 9-1-1, so it’s best to role play without the use of a physical phone.

“Calling 9-1-1 can be stressful as an adult let alone as a child – and it’s even scarier if you don’t know what to expect. It is so important to regularly talk to your child about the process of dialing 9-1-1 so that if an emergency does happen we can get them the help they need quickly,” says Corporate Communications Manager Jasmine Bradley. “A strong understanding of emergency preparedness and the 9-1-1 system can be vitally important for life and death situations. That’s why we focus heavily on offering tools for parents and educators to help make that learning process easier.”

Over the month of September, E-Comm 9-1-1 call takers are sharing tips for speaking to kids about 9-1-1 in short videos across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Parents, caregivers, teachers and children of all ages can also visit ecomm911.ca to download free 9-1-1 education materials, available in nine languages.

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Photo/Interview Opportunity 
E-Comm invites the media to its Lower Mainland Emergency Communications Centre at 3301 East Pender Street on Monday, September 9 for interview opportunities with E-Comm call taker Heather Andrews and Jasmine Bradley, manager of Corporate Communications.

Please confirm your attendance in advance by emailing corpcomm@ecomm911.ca.  

Note: Photo identification is required to enter the E-Comm building. Photos and video in the Emergency Communications Centre is permitted under specific conditions.

About E-Comm
E-Comm is the first point of contact for 9-1-1 callers in 25 regional districts in British Columbia and provides dispatch services for more than 70 police agencies and fire departments. E‐Comm also owns and operates the largest multi‐jurisdictional, tri‐service wide‐area radio network in the province used by police, fire and ambulance personnel throughout Metro Vancouver and parts of the Fraser Valley. In 2018, E-Comm handled nearly 1.6 million 9-1-1 calls in B.C.

Media contact:
Kaila Butler
Communications Coordinator
604-626-9140
kaila.butler@ecomm911.ca