David Hession crosses his arms in front of a group of 23 squirmy
sixth-graders at Chicago's Mark T. Skinner School and waits for the
answer to his question: "When you call 911, what are some things
they're going to ask you?"
Hession, an instructor with the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago, was
invited to the school to deliver a brief follow-up first aid class
for the school's sixth-graders. For 40 minutes, Hession reviews the
"three C's" of emergency treatment (Check, Call and Care), how to
use the five senses to detect an emergency and how to check if a
person is unconscious.
Preventable injuries among kids are all too common, but even the
youngest family members can be taught to respond effectively to
emergency situations, says Donna Giove, an instructor with the Red
"We can really go a long way in reducing that risk by teaching
kids how to take care of themselves if they are hurt and so they
don't make it worse," Giove says. "We can teach kids at an early
age to become more proactive instead of reactive."
Learn according to
The American Red Cross of Greater Chicago offers a variety of
first aid and safety classes for kids, ranging from water safety to
CPR. In general, the younger the children, the more time devoted to
911 preparedness and how to recognize an emergency.
First aid classes for children are activity oriented and focus
on actually doing the skills, Giove says.
For instance, in the popular Basic Aid Training classes for 7-
to 11-year-olds, students pretend to call 911 and the instructor
acts as the dispatcher. Relay races and games also help them learn
how to respond to choking, bleeding, burns, poisoning and other
emergencies. The Scrubby Bear class teaches 4- to 7-year-olds about
personal hygiene, germs and how to properly wash their hands. First
Aid for Children Today for 5- to 8-year-olds teaches kids injury
prevention, how to respond to injuries to themselves and others and
how to make healthy choices.
Help at home
Parents can teach their kids how to deal with some emergency
situations at home, even without a class, Giove says. Important
skills to emphasize include where the first aid supplies are kept,
where emergency phone numbers are listed and how to use Band-Aids
and antiseptic cream, Giove says.
Dialing 911 isn't a problem; knowing what to say when on the
phone with the dispatcher is. Parents can teach their kids to be
articulate on the phone by making sure they know their family
members' names, home address and home and work phone numbers, Giove
"At the very least (parents should) take a basic first aid
class," Giove says. "It would give them a lot of good information
and it would help them see the best way to prepare their kids. And
the best way to teach is by learning themselves."
"If you start with them young enough and get that excitement
building, they'll just succeed," she says. "They feel so good about
the idea that they can help somebody else, and you've empowered
them so that they want to keep going and do as much as they
Vinika Porwal is a former Chicago Parent intern and senior
at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.
See more of Vinika's stories here.
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