All children should know how to dial 911 in an emergency. In addition to dialing they need to be able to give their telephone number, name, address and directions to their house. Let the child practice doing this and if necessary, role play a possible emergency situation. Most children do not become upset with the procedure but feel empowered and function well.
Your family should have a fire drill at least once a year. It is not enough to tell children what to do, you must demonstrate it step by step.
Start by showing them what route to take to get out of the house quickly. Take them through the routes they should follow from different parts of the house. When they are out of the house, show them where they should go to wait for you. This could be a big tree in the yard or in a next door neighbor’s yard. Tell them they are to stay at that place and not worry about finding you. You will find them.
Some children hide in the closet or under the bed for fear of punishment, because they think they have or really may have started the fire by playing with matches. Tell them they do not have to worry about how the fire started, their only job is to get out of the house. Tell them they cannot hide from a fire. The only safe place to be is outside of the house by the designated meeting place.
Children can become separated from you in a store, museum, amusement park, etc. Children need to know what to do if they get lost. Whenever you go into a new place, decide ahead of time where they should go if they get lost, like the main desk, cashier or a central place. They can go up to the guard or a policeman and ask to be taken to the meeting place. Be sure they can say where it is. They should never leave the store, museum, amusement park with a stranger.
If you are traveling to a new city with a child, tell the child the name of the hotel or new place where you will be staying. Have the child repeat this information to you so you know she heard correctly. Have some hidden identification on her with a telephone number you can be reached at in case she gets separated from you.
If you are going on a hike or camping trip, take the children through the steps of what to do if they get separated from you. In the mountains, show children how to Hug-a-Tree. Hugging a tree gives them a feeling of security and comfort. It also keeps them from wandering around and difficult to find. Tell them they do not have to find you, you will find them. They are to stay put. You might also indicate that being lost in the woods is different from escaping a fire in the house. In the woods, you stay put. In a fire in the house, you get out quickly and go to the designated safe place outside of the house.
All of this may sound obvious and you may feel that your children already know what to do. Just to make sure, ask them. You may be surprised to learn that they know abstractly what to do but presented with concrete problems, they do not have the solutions. In any case, it bears repeating. Children sometimes forget.