Family life

The importance of having a family emergency plan

With her husband away for work, Jennifer Pinarski teaches her kids the importance of family emergency plans.

1FamilyEmergencyPlan-January2014-iStockphoto

Photo: iStockphoto

Follow along as Jennifer Pinarski shares her experiences about giving up her big city job and lifestyle to live in rural Ontario with her husband, while staying home to raise their two young children.

“What would happen if you had a heart attack while I’m away?” my worrywart husband asked me earlier this week. “Or fell and hit your head? Or the house caught on fire? Do the kids know what to do if there is an emergency?”

He had a point. With our new living arrangements—him a few hours away working, and me alone in our cottage home in the woods with the kids—we needed a family emergency plan. While solo parenting has presented a few challenges, if I were to have a serious health emergency, my two young children would be ill-equipped to handle the situation since they don’t know how to call for help.

Calling for help when I was a kid was very different: dialling “0” on our party line rotary phone and talking to the operator, who would almost certainly be a family friend, was how emergency situations would’ve been handled. Smartphones and amalgamated emergency services make things a little different now.

So, for the past few days I’ve been teaching my kids how to navigate my phone to call 911 and find the numbers for our friends, while reminding them to not get too distracted by Angry Birds. Having significant first aid training myself, I felt confident—dare I say smug?—in how well my kids knew how to dial 911. Well, maybe a little too well. The next day I got a call from the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) saying a 911 call had been placed on my phone and was I safe? I tried to explain that I was perfectly fine and had been on the way to school to pick up my son when my three-year-old dialled 911. I tried to convince the dispatcher that a visit from the police wasn’t necessary because I was only trying to teach my children what to do in case of an emergency.

But the police were sent anyway.

When the officer arrived both of my kids were shocked and very sheepish—OK, I was too. The attending police officer explained that she often makes similar visits because children usually test to make sure that their parents aren’t pulling their legs about the police coming when 911 is dialled. She explained to the kids the seriousness of making a 911 call and, based on the way they stared at the police officer in awe, they understood. The officer also assured me that I did the right thing in teaching the kids how to dial 911—just that maybe next time they make sure there’s an actual emergency.

I believe this is what is called a teachable moment.

Does your family have an emergency plan? Tweet me @jenpinarski.

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