Adults know that ambulance lights and sirens usually mean an emergency of some sort. However, we also understand that the ambulance is on its way to help.
For kids, emergency vehicles can be much more scary. From a child’s perspective, they’re huge, and loud, and they have lots of frightening lights. While we hope an emergency situation never happens, they do. So it’s important for kids to get past their fear, and understand how to interact with ambulances and EMS staff.
“It’s very common for us to get 911 calls from kids, or to find kids at home when we respond to a call,” says Tom Stanley, director of NOCHS EMS in Grand Haven. “Parents can help their kids feel less afraid and more confident by teaching them some basic facts about emergency medical services.”
Here’s what NOCHS EMS recommends.
- Emphasize help. Any time you see or hear an ambulance, remind your kids “someone is on the way to help.”
- Explain the scary stuff. The bright yellow coats, horns, and flashing lights intimidate kids. Explain that those are safety precautions so that other people see and hear paramedics (especially in the dark) and can get out of the way.
- Teach them about 911. Explain that calling this number will bring immediate help if someone is unconscious, or bleeding badly, or unable to communicate. (And make sure they understand it’s only for emergencies!) Kids should also understand that an ambulance, fire truck or police car will come to the house quickly when they call 911, and they need to let people in to help.
- Discuss road etiquette. When you pull over for a fire truck or ambulance, explain what you are doing and why. Help kids understand that they should always get out of the way, even if they are on bikes or walking, so that the responders can get where they are going quickly and safely.