Don’t hang up

Alesaundra Tafoya’s big adventure in Mantica, Calif., made national news on Monday. Not familiar with the name? She was the 3-year-old toddler who, when her father collapsed after an accidental overdose of medicine, left the home and walked two blocks to a fire station where she told firefighters that her dad was “frozen” and wouldn’t wake up, according to KOVR, the station that broke the story. The station reported that the little girl saved her father’s life.

It’s a feel-good story of the first order. The only problem is, neither CNN nor its affiliate appeared to know how absolutely horrible the idea of a toddler on the road is to most emergency personnel.

In most circumstances, if a toddler were two blocks from her parents without supervision—even if the overdose is accidental—the circumstance would be described as “child endangerment” instead of “feel-good.”

“Firefighters said Alesaundra’s story is an example of why children should be taught to ask emergency personnel for help in an emergency,” ended KOVR’s story.

One local fire department administrator said children should be taught two things that will be useful in an emergency: their home address and how to dial 9-1-1.

Not to take anything away from Tafoya or her parents—this was a big deal for a very little girl—but 9-1-1 would have brought help faster even if Tafoya was unable to tell the dispatcher her home address. And that’s just the beginning of what the emergency number will do.

In the very near future, maybe as soon as next year, Next Generation 9-1-1 will be able to use global positioning technology, real-time text, images, video, and other data, and generate 9-1-1 calls from any networked device. Honestly, it would be a little creepy and feel a little Big Brotherish—if the new technology weren’t developed for public safety.

But if you’ve got a small child who needs to know the real steps of how to help in an emergency, here they are:

• Teach your child their address and telephone number.

• Ensure your child can physically reach a telephone.

• Discuss what an emergency entails: For example, a fire or unconscious person.

• Teach your child not to play with or misuse 9-1-1

The child should be prepared with information (and maybe a practice call) as to what information will be required:

• He or she needs to tell the dispatcher what the emergency is.

• He or she needs to give his or her address, phone number and name.

• Stay on the line with the 9-1-1 dispatcher. In other words, don’t hang up.