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Teaching Your Children to Use 911

Calgary Police Emergency...How May I Help You?

Seconds count in an emergency. The 911 telephone line connects you quickly to police, fire or emergency personnel. But not all families, particularly children, know when and how to call 911.

Teaching your child the value of 911 and how and when to properly use the number could help save the life of someone close to you. When talking with your child about the correct use of 911, there are a few important tips to remember.

Children who are first learning to use the telephone and are still discovering what all the buttons do are more likely to accidentally dial 911 if it is pre-programmed. Please take positive steps to assist your child to understand the consequences of pressing those buttons which you may have pre-programmed.

Consider the possibility of not pre-programming 911 if you have young children who are naturally inquisitive. This will help us to reduce the 911 hang-ups, but the decision, of course, must remain yours pre-programming can be a valuable asset in an emergency.

The 911 system is an important lifeline to individuals who need help. When it is misused, and it often is, it affects all Calgarians. Every time someone calls 911 when there is no emergency, or who then hangs up, the police must rush to the scene, prepared for a real emergency.

Although most 911 hang-ups are false alarms, all 911 calls for police assistance require, and are given, the highest level of priority from the Calgary Police Service. It is vital to teach children the dangers of making prank 911 calls. Try to explain that police officers may not be able to help people who really need help if he or she uses the telephone as a toy.

Dial 911 only if you see a crime in progress; someone prowling around your neighbour's house; a stranger trying to get into your house; a traffic accident where injuries are involved; violence or threat of violence; fire; or a medical emergency.

Minor accidents and crimes where the culprit isn't present can be reported to the police information line, 266-1234 or at your local district police office.

In addition, children should know their full name, address and telephone number so they can help the 911 Communications Officer in a real emergency.

It is vital that anyone calling for emergency services try to remain calm, speak clearly and remain on the telephone to provide additional information if requested to do so by the Communications Officer.

If a child accidentally dials 911 and you become aware of the situation, stay on the line. It is much less embarrassing to explain the situation to the 911 Communications Officer than to have a police officer arrive at your door and, as a result, have wasted valuable police resources.

The Calgary Police Communications Section is responsible for answering and evaluating all calls for service from the public, both through the 266-1234 non-emergency number and the 911 emergency number. The Section handles calls 24 hours per day, seven days a week, 365 days a year and is dedicated to providing superior customer service to all Calgarians.

I would like to encourage all parents to take a few minutes today to remind their children about 911. Together, community and police can work to ensure the safety of all Calgarians.


Christine Silverberg is the former chief of the Calgary Police Services.

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