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Teaching Your Child What To Do In An Emergency?

Do your kids know what to do in an emergency? From turning off the water supply to calling 000, these are the useful skills we hope your child never need to use.

What is an emergency?

An emergency is a serious situation that requires immediate attention. Some emergencies are scary, and some are exciting, but all are best helped when you DON’T PANIC!

The first thing any child needs to do in an emergency is take a deep breath to calm themselves. They can then look to see if there is a way they can assist. If it is a big dangerous emergency, they need to make themselves (and others if possible) safe and call for back-up.

Who are you going to call?

Talk to your children about different kinds of emergency. BIG emergencies, where life or property are in danger, require a specialist response from emergency services. Smaller emergencies, like missing the bus, forgetting your key to get in after school, or an injury that requires first aid but no ambulance, can be helped by a relative or trusted neighbour.

Dialling 000

Most children are familiar with phones but tmay not know what to do if the mobile phone is locked.

Squeezing the buttons on both sides of an Apple phone simultaneously will bring up the emergency screen. From here, your child can choose to slide the SOS button to call triple 0, or rapidly squeeze five times to dial automatically.

On Android phones, slide to unlock, and tap the word “emergency” on the screen to bring up the keypad to dial 000. (Your child’s phone may be different, but instructions can be found online for most makes and models).

When the operator answers:

  • Tell the operator there is an emergency
  • Say your name and where you are (the exact address if you know it)
  • Answer the operator’s questions in as much detail as you can
  • Follow all of the operator’s instructions carefully
  • Stay on the line until the operator says it’s OK to hang up

Use role play to practice making an emergency call, but don’t dial 000 unless you really need their services!

Call 000 for Police, Fire, and Ambulance emergency assistance

Call 131 444 for non-urgent property crime and incidents

Favourite helpers

You can set up a “favourites” shortcut for important numbers in your phone (if you’re not sure how for your particular phone, a quick Google will help).

Important numbers to have in your child’s favourite list can include:

  • close relatives
  • trusted neighbours (it’s worth getting to know them!)
  • parents’ work numbers

While you’re adding these numbers to your child’s phone, go into the Settings and add your own (and other first contacts’) number under Emergency Contacts/Emergency SOS. Emergency services know how to access these and will be able to contact you if your child is the one requiring assistance.

What to do in an emergency around the home

DIY mishaps or maintenance issues can require quick action to minimise damage.

As our children become teenagers they are more likely to be home alone. It’s important that they know what to do in a household emergency to prevent coming home to an even bigger mess than usual!

Burst pipe

stopcock being turned

Burst pipes in walls, ceilings and floors can do a lot of damage in a very short time. Show your child where to find the stopcock and how to turn it off.

For most houses, the external stopcock is located next to the water meter near your front boundary line. In apartments, it could be located under a sink. If you don’t know where yours is, it’s better to find it now rather than when you desperately need to!

Overflowing cisterns and internal leaks

Sinks, toilets, and appliances like washing machines and dishwashers have their own stopcocks, or “water inlet valves”. These control water supply to the individual item and may be in the form of a lever (horizontal to the pipe is “open” and 90-degrees to the pipe is “closed”), or a tap.

Take a look under your sinks and on the pipes behind your toilet to familiarise your child with their location, and practice turning them on and off. Some can be really tough to turn. If you’re confident your teen can be handy, introduce them to the tools that might help with grip and torque, like a wrench or pliers.

Power cut

Girl doing homework by torchlight in a power cut

We would never recommend a child undertakes any action that involves live electrical current, but if they are home alone when the power goes out, there are some things they can do.

  • Locate the emergency lighting. Battery powered lamps are the preferred choice over candles and are not too expensive. We’ve even brought the garden solar lights indoors when caught unprepared for a power cut.
  • Unplug any sensitive electrical items (that aren’t plugged into a surge-protector board) to prevent damage when the power comes back on.
  • Snack from the pantry, not the fridge. Frequently opening the fridge door will cause the internal temperature to rise and spoil the food quicker.
  • If the garage is your emergency exit, automatic roller doors can be switched to manual by pulling the cord under the motor (or see your motor’s user manual for instructions if there is no cord), allowing the door to be lifted by hand. This is especially important to know if your power goes out due to a fire and the .
  • Leave a light on so that you will instantly know when the power is back on.

Sometimes a power cut is caused by a tripped switch. You know your child best; judge for yourself if you think they are capable of accessing the switch box to flip the tripped switch. If not, refer them to the favourite helpers call list you prepared earlier!

There are many potential emergency situations that you could prepare your child for. This article doesn’t cover them all, but it’s a good place to start.

This article was featured in Issue 56 of our printed magazine on 1 March 2023.

Photo of author

Regina Gleeson

Regina is a fan of finding 'things to do with kids' in South East Queensland (specifically Brisbane and surrounds). As the Listings Editor of the popular Families Magazine (2013 - 2020), she was instrumental in hunting down and finding all the best things to do for families and sharing that information with her audience. She is extremely community-minded and makes it her personal mission to contribute content that is low cost (or free!) and suitable for families. This thirst for knowledge and desire to experience the things she writes about makes her an irreplaceable member of the team. Now working for blogs as a free-lancer, she contributes around raising two smaller humans and working with many, many more.

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