Learning to Dial 9-1-1

Proceed with caution on this post…or else the 9-1-1 dispatchers might have it out for me with all the little ones accidentally dialing 9-1-1! Before your child learns to dial 9-1-1, he/she needs to know what constitutes an emergency. Obviously, an emergency in the eyes of a 3-year old might look vastly different than what an adult constitutes as an emergency (losing your Skittles is NOT an emergency, thank you very much).

Talk with your child about what an emergency might look like…a fire inside the house, a person who looks hurt and isn’t responding when you try to talk to them, etc. Then tell them that if something like that should EVER happen (and ONLY when something like this happens), they have a very, very important job. They need to go get the phone and dial 9-1-1.

I have created this printable of a phone for you to practice with first. If your child does not already recognize the numbers “9” and “1”, point them out on the paper telephone. If your phone requires you to press “talk” or “on” make sure you include that step as well.

Next, disable the connection on your phone and allow him/her to practice on the actual telephone. Pretend like your the 9-1-1 dispatcher and ask the sort of questions you might hear, “What’s your emergency?”. Have fun with it, but at the same time convey the importance that it is NOT A GAME. This would also be a great time for your child to start learning your address and phone number.

Have you taught your child how to dial 9-1-1? If so, at what age?


  1. Great post, Jenae! I just saw a news story the other night about a local boy who saved his mother by dialing 911. My husband turned to me and said, I think you should make that one of your afterschool activities. We did it awhile ago, but a review is certainly in order. Thank you SO MUCH for sharing your ideas on how to practice. Using the real phone is genius!

  2. I’ve done this with all of my children, but we can always keep reviewing…thank you. What I wanted to share is a funny story (or at least it is now). When my daughter was 9 months old, I was on the telephone. Once I got off, I handed the phone to her to hold while I finished something up in the kitchen. Literally, about 2 minutes later when I took the phone from her and hung it up on the base, I got a phone call from 9-1-1 saying they had received a call from my home. I assured them I had not called 9-1-1 and then I realized my daughter must have accidentally pushed “talk and 9-1-1” in the correct sequence. Anyway, they said there was an officer en route to my house. When he arrived, I had to convince him that there wasn’t an emergency, namely a bad guy in the home telling me to tell him that everything was okay.

  3. I’d also like to point out that you should also teach your child how to operate your cell phone in the case of emergency. We don’t have a landline so when my 2 year old gets a little older, i’ll show him how to unlock and use both of our phones. Most cell phones have a locked setting, and many phones have a keypad that’s touch screen and hidden. I think it’s very important to show your child how to use cell phones too! Emergencies happen other places besides home and it helps to be prepared!

  4. my mom taught me what to do in an emergency when I was five. I showed her just how much I remembered it by dialing 911 about 7 times in a row and hanging up. the police came out to our house. I hid in the closet because I thought he was going to arrest me. But after that, I knew for sure only to call it in an emergency!

  5. We were recently talking with my step daughter who is 7 about calling 911 in an emergency. We tried to give examples of emergencies without scaring her. After we gave several examples she said “So like if a dinosaur came up I would call 911?” Yes honey, if a dinosaur comes up you should definitely call 911 :0)

  6. Thank you so much for sharing this! It’s something I’ve been meaning to teach my older children (6 and 4). And I’m grateful for the commenter who suggested teaching the kids how to use the cell phone as well. I wouldn’t have thought of that!

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