Cape kids learn value of 911

Wednesday, September 12, 2001

Southwest Bell's regional director Marsha Haskell posed this question to a room full of Blanchard School kindergartners Tuesday: If your dad fell off a ladder, what should you do?

"Pour water on him," one 5-year-old girl said.

Actually, the answer is call 911, though the youngster's answer caused the adults in the room to stifle laughter.

Many children are taught early on by their parents what to do in emergency situations -- dial 911 and ask for help. But calling for emergency assistance is not always that simple, and without the proper knowledge of when and how to use this life-saving number, the call can actually hinder personal safety.

To help teach valuable 911 lessons, Southwestern Bell has teamed up with its Pioneers volunteer group and local 911 officials to launch "Safe Connections: Know the ABCs of 911."

The program aims to educate children and parents about using 911 for emergencies and raises awareness of how to use the phone to help prevent emergencies in the first place.

Southwestern Bell volunteers, workers and Cape Girardeau's DARE police officer Cpl. Al Spencer spent time Tuesday with kindergarten, first- and second-grade students at Blanchard to show them exactly what to do in emergency situations.

Lost seconds important

Fidgety kids got to watch a video featuring singing puppets and talking phones named Buttons and Whirley. They also reviewed phone safety tips and provided children with the opportunity to rehearse calls to 911 with the aid of a real-life emergency dispatcher using a simulator device that recreates calls to 911.

"Children might not know their address or might hang up and try calling back again if a dispatcher does not answer right away," said Spencer, who also works in dispatch. "In a life-or-death situation, those lost seconds can be critical for the emergency staff and the caller."

Made up own emergencies

Kids got to make up their own emergencies, holding a pretend phone.

Dylan Hill, 5, said that his emergency affected the school itself.

"The school's on fire," he said, causing the class to erupt in giggles.

Tuesday was National 911 Day, which coincides with the release of the first-ever 911 Report Card to the Nation" on the status of 911 service, which underscores the need for continued public education about when and how to dial 911 for emergencies.

"It really could boil down to the difference between life and death," Spencer said after the first class. "It's important that these kids know how to do this."

smoyers@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 137

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