What the Tech? Teaching kids how to dial 9-1-1

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(ABC 6 News) – A new survey from the journal “Pediatrics” reveals elementary school children lack a very important skill: how to dial 9-1-1. For many parents and grandparents, this skill was ingrained in their brains from a very young age. Ten years or so ago it was simple to call 9-1-1 for help, but it’s more difficult today because most homes do not have a landline phone.

A study by the American Academy of Pediatrics reveals that 91% of elementary school kids cannot reliably call 911. Part of the reason seems to be some parents haven’t taught their children how to do this, but the loss of landline phones in homes is also part of the problem.

iPhones and Android devices will connect to 9-1-1 call centers of course and even share location information. There’s a barrier to this working for young children too young to have their own devices. The only smartphone in the home may belong to the person who needs help and is locked with a passcode. Unless the child knows the passcode (and many do not for safety reasons), what can they do?

Here are a few ways a child can use a locked smartphone to call for help:

  • Using Siri to call 9-1-1 is one of the very few things someone can do on a locked iPhone. Just teach the child to say “Hey Siri, call 9-1-1”. The call will be placed at the nearest call center.
  • Swipe up from the bottom of a locked screen where you’re asked to provide a passcode or look into the camera to unlock with Face ID. At the bottom of that screen is a button that says “emergency”. If they tap that button a keypad will appear where they can simply enter 9-1-1 and place the call.
  • Teach children to use the Emergency SOS feature on iPhones. By pressing the side button quickly 5 times, the phone will dial 9-1-1 and share a location with the dispatcher. It will also send emergency contacts a notification that you’ve called for help and give them your location.
  • On Android phones, all you need to do is simply swipe up on the locked screen where you will see a keypad to dial 9-1-1.

If you practice how to dial 9-1-1 on a smartphone with your children, turn on Airplane Mode on the device. This will prevent the emergency call from being sent to 9-1-1 emergency service dispatchers