I'm the editor of Smart, a magazine for women in southcentral Pennsylvania. I said "I do" to my wonderful husband in 2002. We have two adorable children who have taught me much about life and love. With the birth of my second child, I bid farewell to my dreams of having a clean house, folded laundry and family dinners on weeknights.

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Teach your kids to dial 911

By BETH VRABEL for Smart

Glenn Jansen Sr. welcomed a crew of preschoolers and kindergartners into Dover Township’s fire station recently. And then he drilled them.

The deputy chief held up a lighter. “What would you do if you saw this?”

The children chorused that they’d tell their moms.

“What would you do if your clothes caught fire from a candle?”

“Stop, drop and roll!” they shouted. Two kids even demonstrated as he reminded them to also cover their faces.

But here’s a question for the parents: What would your children do if you were injured or unconscious?

What would they do if they were alone and smelled smoke?

What would they do if a burglar broke into their home?

In March, a 7-year-old boy in Norwalk, Calif., saved his family from home invaders by dialing 911 after grabbing his little sister and a portable phone, and hiding in a bathroom. When the armed men found the children and realized the boy had called authorities, they fled.

Authorities credited the boy with saving his family. But his parents are also heroes. They taught him exactly what to do in an emergency.

Just like teaching them to stop, drop and roll, parents need to educate their children about dialing 911, Jansen said. “It’s something you need to talk about regularly.”

Start having the conversation when children are about 5 years old, Jansen said. Tell them it’s for “anytime they’re scared and their parent isn’t there.”

Brian Morrin, formerly of the York County Office of Emergency Management agrees. Keep it simple. “(Tell them,) you should only call 911 when you need a police officer, firefighter or ambulance. Only call when someone is hurt or you see danger like fire.”

If parents are worried that introducing the concept is introducing worries, watch how the experts do it. Bring them to a fire station for a tour, Jansen said. “Every station will take time to talk to kids and tell them why it’s important to be safe,” Jansen said.

Morrin suggests keeping an emergency card with vital information by the phone.

Teaching tips:

Explain in simple language what 911 is.

Explain to children what will happen when they call 911. A person will pick up the phone and ask a few questions. They will get people there quickly to help.

Tell your children never to hang up after calling 911. The person on the other end of the line will let the child know when it’s OK to hang up.

Make sure children know their address, parents’ names and phone number.

If the child is not home when calling 911, teach them to look around for street signs or landmarks so the dispatcher can locate the emergency.

Parents with a medical condition should place medical information in an envelope and tape it to the refrigerator. Make sure your child knows it’s there.

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