Teaching Kids 911: Explaining How to Dial 911 on Mobile and Landline Phones


National 9-1-1 Emergency Month occurs in April each year, giving us a great opportunity for teaching kids 911 calling skills in an emergency.  Plan to teach your child on both a landline and on a mobile phone, as the process varies.

NOTE: NEVER call 911 while practicing. These types of calls tie up resources and stop people with real emergencies from getting the help they need. Instead, we recommend using one of the cell phone simulators provided by Verizon Wireless to teach your child how to make calls on a mobile phone. 

Videos offer an effective way of introducing your kids to 911. We like “Easy as 9-1-1“ by CellphoneSally911 with its catchy music and graphics for teaching kids 911 calling techniques.

Here are our 10 tips for teaching kids what 911 is all about and how to get help:

1. Teach your child to clearly say the following:

  • First and last name
  • Home address – if you live in an apartment or condo, make sure your child knows the number and floor of your residence.

2, Walk your child through the actual steps of dialing 911 on a landline:

  • Pick up the receiver, and listen for a dial tone.
  • Dial nine-one-one. Don’t say “nine-eleven,” as your child may get confused and try to find an “11” on your phone in a real emergency.
  • Tell your child what to say when the 9-1-1 dispatcher answers.
    • Explain what’s wrong
    • Type of emergency
    • Type of help needed – ambulance, fire or police
    • Address where help is needed

3. Follow these steps for teaching kids 911 skills using a cell phone:

  • Show your child how to unlock your cell phone. The simulators mentioned above can help explain how this is done.
  • Explain how to access the dial pad.
  • Show your child how to press the “send” or “call” button to finalize the call.
  • Ask your child to practice this process by calling a friend or relative on your mobile phone rather than actually calling 911.

NOTE: Avoid using old mobile phones to practice, as these phones can still dial 911, even when inactivated.

4. Practice calling for help on a cell phone from a remote location. Remember – not all 911 centers can determine the location of a caller using a mobile phone, so teach your child to recognize landmarks, signs or buildings. 

5. Discuss the types of emergencies that might require calling 911:

  • Fire
  • Break-in
  • Car accident
  • Stranger danger
  • Medical emergency
  • Unresponsive parent
  • Symptoms from specific medical conditions a family member may experience

You can also use the quiz found at 9-1-1 for Kids.com to help your child figure out when it’s OK to call for help.

6. Role-play as the dispatcher with scenarios involving the above-mentioned types of emergencies. Ask your child questions such as:

  • Where are you calling from?
  • Where do you live?
  • What type of emergency is this?
  • Who needs help?
  • Is the person awake and breathing?

7. Explain to your child that it is safe to explain an emergency and provide personal information to a 911 dispatcher.

8. Discuss how it’s normal to feel scared during an emergency. Explain the importance of speaking slowly and calmly is key to getting help even when scared.

9. Tell your child to NOT hang up the phone until the dispatcher says it’s okay to do so.

10. Highlight the importance of not calling 911 as a prank. In some places, this is a crime. Most 911 dispatchers can see the location from which the call came, so it’s easy for them to find out who made the prank call.