Program designed to educate children about city’s 911 system

When Claire Slater was three years old, her parents Jon and Diana taught her both her home address and how to call 911 if she ever needed help.

At the time, they could not have imagined how important a lesson it would turn out to be.

In Feb. 2012, five-year-old Claire called 911 after Diana suffered an undisclosed medical emergency at the family’s home.

For her actions that day, Claire was among six young Calgarians recently recognized by the Husky Heroes program.

The program is a joint venture between Public Safety Communications, which is the city’s 911 centre, as well as Husky Energy and the Calgary Emergency Medical Services Foundation.

Program serves to promote education and awareness

Husky Heroes is designed to educate children how to use Calgary’s 911 system. Police officers, firefighters and paramedics visit schools and community events to speak about their jobs and what to do in the event of an emergency. Educational resources in the form of a Husky Heroes poster and activity page are also provided to children.Claire Slater was joined by her parents Diana and Jon and her four-year-old brother William at the 2012 Husky Heroes award ceremony.

Photo by Karry Taylor

In addition, a ceremony is also held once a year to recognize children who called 911 and offered significant assistance to emergency personnel.

Award recipients nominated by 911 staff

Stuart Brideaux, public education officer with EMS, said those associated with the program were proud to present medals to the “six very special individuals” recognized at the 2012 award ceremony.

The six children ranged in age from five to 12 years old. All were honoured for their actions during emergencies involving members of their respective families.

“They either called 911 directly, provided information to 911 as an emergency unfolded or assisted the emergency personnel who assisted at the scene,” Brideaux said. “In many instances, it was all three.”

Recipients of the Husky Heroes award are nominated by the emergency communications officers who answer 911 calls.

Five-year-old called 911 during medical emergency

Claire Slater was nominated for her award by emergency communications officer Robbie Waugh. Because Claire called 911 from her mother’s cellphone, Waugh did not have automatic access to information regarding the Slater’s home address. Claire, however, was able to provide the address when asked.

Following further directions from Waugh, Claire was able to verify that her mother was breathing. In addition, she took care of her younger brother William, who was also home at the time.

Teaching your child about 911

Stuart Brideaux, public education officer with EMS offers the following tips about talking to children about 911.

•Help your child understand that 911 is not a toy and should not to be taken lightly.
•Provide concrete examples of what constitutes an emergency; stress that 911 can only be used to reach police, fire or ambulance services.
•Children are rarely all alone in a true emergency. Teach them to look for an adult or older child to ask if they are unsure about calling 911.
•Help your child understand what to look for if a family member has a chronic medical problem. Even if children aren’t old enough to understand what diabetes or epilepsy are, they can learn to recognize what they look like.
•Keep a list of emergency numbers, including neighbours and relatives, beside the telephone or at eye level on the fridge.

When the ambulance arrived, Claire met EMS personnel at the door and directed them to Diana. She also found her mother’s health care card and gave it to the paramedics.

Diana Slater said the award was “very special” for the entire family.

“We didn’t know about the Husky Heroes program until it affected us very personally,” Diana Slater said. “We’re thrilled it exists.”

Setting an example

Murray Callbeck, Husky Energy’s senior health and safety advisor, said the program is designed not only to recognize the actions of children such as Claire, but also to support EMS and Public Safety Communications in their efforts to educate children about Calgary’s 911 services.

“Over the last five years, we have been able to recognize 31 young people who have shown an outstanding ability to assess a situation and make the call for appropriate help,” Callbeck said.

“I think that is a tremendous indication that our education programs are working.”

Callbeck took part in the award ceremony and told the recipients that they were “heroes.”

“All six of you did the right thing in an emergency situation. Even though it was scary and stressful, you were able to stay calm and get help for your loved ones,” Callbeck said.

“You made an important contribution to safety in our community and have set a great example for the rest of us to follow.”

Dustin Beck, liason manager for public safety and communications, said that Slater and the others were not being honoured simply for calling 911, but for setting “an example” and for being “exemplary 911 callers.”

“It’s not an age thing,” Beck said. ” It’s how professional and how perfect they were for the duration of the call.”

Mother encourages teaching children their address

Diana Slater said she encourages all parents to teach their children their home address and about how — and when — to call 911.

“It’s extremely important,” Slater said. “The fact that she knew her address and was able to call 911 was a wonderful blessing.

“I spent five years looking after her. I never imagined she’d have to look after me.”

ktaylor@cjournal.ca