Kids Safe Week: The Right Way to Use 911
I just hopped off my commuter train after having a serious discussion with my girlfriends. At what age do you feel comfortable letting your tween roam free in a mall, movie theater, or walk to the local salad shop by themselves?
For my husband and myself, our comfort level is still a bit shaky when it comes to dropping our daughter off at the mall with her best friends. Perhaps it's because I grew up in Brooklyn and at the tender age of 15, had my wallet stolen right out of my bag (with over 100 dollars in cash that was lifted along with it). We do allow our child to walk to the bus stop which is a few blocks from our home. Plus, I recently let her walk with her friend to the local sandwich and salad shop. But for me, I currently draw the line at the mall and the movies.
As a parent, it's just as easy to take your child to the mall or the movies and give them some independence while you're just a few hundred yards away. I've already done that in both places and have to say, this past weekend, I got to see "Water for Elephants" all by myself while my daughter and her friend saw "Soul Surfer." For me, it was the best of both worlds. And for my daughter, she and her friend got to see the movie they wanted and had a ride home immediately following the film. A compromise that worked out for both of us.
I know it's important to allow tweens to assert their independence. And believe me, I am getting there. It might be baby steps for some and others - especially those who live in the city may think I'm over protective - but for me, it's about safety and trust. Plus, I happen to enjoy taking my daughter to the mall where we can spend some one on one time and talk about the issues she's facing at school and with her friends. The mall is not a babysitter and at 12 years old, a young girl can act mature and responsible or do something completely irresponsible - like throw pretzels over a railing while unsuspecting shoppers are pelted as they walk by. This scene was witnessed by my daughter and myself and I warned her if she ever did something like that, she wouldn't be seeing the inside of a mall for a very long time.
I'm sure our readers may have differing opinions on this topic - feel free to weigh in. And, in recognition of Kids Safe Week, we'd like to share some important tips from Smart 911. If you are giving your child the opportunity to travel to a public location by themselves, make sure you arm them with this information before they head out the door!
The New Rules of 9-1-1
1) Communicate your exact location: When calling 9-1-1 from a mobile phone, 9-1-1 operators are rarely able to pinpoint the caller's exact location. Especially if you are in a densely populated area, or if you live in an apartment building, it will be important to communicate this immediately.
2) Find out if your city or town has 911 texting capabilities: While you may often choose texting over calling to friends and family, only select cities and municipalities in the U.S. provide the option to text with 9-1-1. Find out if your city or town offers text support.
3) If you get a recording, don't hang up: The call you place stays in the telephone switch queue for up to two minutes even if you get a recording. The 9-1-1 operator will call the person back when they do receive it, but by then you may be in a cycle of phone tag, prolonging the process even further.
4) Make sure you have multiple ways to dial 9-1-1 and have a backup plan: For those who still have a landline phone in their homes, choose a landline when calling 9-1-1. However, keep in mind that most often this phone is a cordless device and will not work in the event of a power outage. As a backup, make sure your mobile phone is always charged--purchase a car charger if you don't have one.
5) Find out if your city/town has a system to record life-saving information used when calling 9-1-1: It is important that first responders have access to information, such as medical conditions, disabilities allergies and number of resident or pets in the home, and can link your mobile number to your home address. Find out if your city or town has any systems in place that you should register for.
About Smart 911...
Smart911 allows citizens to go online and enter life-saving information about their health, any disabilities, family members, pets, photos, home address, etc., which instantly appears on a 9-1-1 operator's computer screen when a call is made. This is particularly important if a child goes missing - before an Amber Alert can be triggered, the police have to acquire a photo of the missing child, which causes a delay. With Smart911, parents are able to upload a high quality photo of their child to their Smart911 profile in advance, and an Amber Alert can go out much more quickly.