Just how dangerous is it to dial the numbers 9-1-1?
Families in Oklahoma, North Carolina, Florida and elsewhere, who have called 911 for assistance in handling the emotional outbursts of their teenage children, have instead received the most serious blow a family can have – the killing of their offspring.
In Iowa a man dialed 911 to report that his teenage stepson had taken his truck without asking. Shortly after, his unarmed stepson was stopped and was shot dead by the deployed police employee.
A six-year-old in San Francisco was playing with the phone and accidentally called 911. A short time later, strangers wearing badges entered the property and shot the family’s dog to death.
The most vulnerable among us – children – are frequently told by adults to call 911 in case of a problem. But as too many families have learned, calling 911 often itself brings tragedy and death.
How can you prepare your children to deal with emergencies without calling the police?
Here are five steps to follow:
First, work with your family to develop a safety plan that can be enacted if you’re not around. Identify safe places they can go for help – to a trusted neighbor’s house or a friendly shopkeeper’s establishment. Create a list of people your child can call. Place it in easy-to-see location, like your refrigerator, and give a copy to your kid and ask them to find a good place to keep it in their room. If your child has a phone, help them add the safe numbers to their speed dial.
Second, practice the plan. Walk the route to each safe zone. Have a discussion with the trusted contacts in front of your children to ensure that they feel comfortable with them. And let your contacts know that the plan is reciprocal – that you will be there to aid their children in a time of need, too. If you and your child have smartphones, consider utilizing Peacekeeper, an app that facilitates emergency response within a personal network.
Third, teach your children situational awareness. Encourage them to gauge their surroundings, and choose to leave situations that don’t feel right to them. Depending on their age, point out to your child where the fire extinguishers in your house are kept, and familiarize them with fire suppression techniques. If you’re a firearms owner, you should teach your children not to handle a firearm that they find, and instead, to find you or another trusted adult. Even better, take the time to teach them how to safely handle a firearm.
Fourth, proactively converse with your children about misinformation they may be told. Children are highly rational – sometimes more so than adults. They need to know that, despite what others may say, a stranger wearing a badge isn’t someone to automatically trust. Tell them that one day a badged person may try to elicit information from them, but that they don’t have to respond. You may even want to role-play such a scenario. If your child has a smarthpone, help them to install a streaming app. Should any unwanted interaction happen, they will be able to capture the truth of the situation and keep it safely stored. Subscribe to your child’s video stream to be immediately notified of any harassment. To really limit exposure to misinformation and “legalized” thuggary, consider homeschooling or unschooling your children.
Fifth, show your child love. When they incessantly ask “Why?” don’t angrily retort “Because I said so, that’s why!” And certainly don’t threaten or use violence. If you resort to using aggression, you are instilling in your child that might makes right. A world where such a paradigm is the norm is not a pleasant world. It’s up to parents to break that cycle.
As we implement these tactics with our families, our children become mentally prepared to face emergency situations without turning to people who may very well make the situation much worse. We also strengthen bonds with those in our communities, which will eventually make coercive institutions obsolete.