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Modern Parenthood

911 call over bedtime; fishermen find girls: A great first responders week

A 911 call over bedtime by an aggrieved 10-year-old and at a hidden crash site fishermen find two little girls: It was a great week for first responders and a good time for parents to review the 911 rules with kids.

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“We had an officer go by the boy's home and explain when it's appropriate – and when it's not – to call 911. It stretches our resources when we get false reports, and it can get you into trouble or cause someone else not to get the help they need,” Bonanca explained.

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Lisa Suhay, who has four sons at home in Norfolk, Va., is a children’s book author and founder of the Norfolk (Va.) Initiative for Chess Excellence (NICE) , a nonprofit organization serving at-risk youth via mentoring and teaching the game of chess for critical thinking and life strategies.

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The detective said that it’s fairly common for kids to call 911 accidentally and just hang up or to call for inappropriate or non-emergency reasons. “We’re pretty tolerant on the whole as long as it’s not malicious,” Bonanca said.

When our eldest son was two (he’s now 19) and we were living in Florida, he called 911 because he thought a real phone was a play phone and just dialed lucky. We didn’t know what he’d done until half the force was at our doorstep. Since then, I have always been fierce with my boys about 911 protocol.

Still, I looked around the Internet for other cases and, so far, my favorite is the little boy who called 911 because he needed help with his math homework and the kindly operator helped him out. Here’s a snipped of how it went:

Operator: 911 emergencies. 
Boy: Yeah I need some help. 
Operator: What’s the matter? 
Boy: With my math. 
Operator: With your mouth? 
Boy: No with my math. I have to do it. Will you help me? 
Operator: Sure. Where do you live? 
Boy: No with my math. 
Operator: Yeah I know. Where do you live though? 
Boy: No, I want you to talk to me on the phone. 
Operator: No I can’t do that. I can send someone else to help you. 
Boy: Okay. 
Operator: What kind of math do you have that you need help with? 
Boy: I have take aways. 
Operator: Oh you have to do the take aways. 
Boy: Yeah. 
Operator: Alright, what’s the problem? …
As the 1:34 min call goes on

Operator: No. How old are you? 
Boy: I’m only 4. 
Operator: 4! 
Boy: Yeah…

The best part is when the mom cottons-on to what her child is up to, also on the recording and transcript:

Woman: Johnny what do you think you’re doing?! 
Boy: The policeman is helping me with my math. 
Woman: What did I tell you about going on the phone? 
Operator: It’s the mother… 
Boy: You said if I need help to call somebody. 
Woman: I didn’t mean the police. (click)

No one was charged in that case or yesterday's bedtime-resistant boy.

When I mentioned the math help incident to Lt. Bonanca he laughed and said, “I couldda used that kind of help when I was a kid. I was terrible at math. That’s why I joined the police force. Seriously though, parents need to explain to their kids about what help 911 is really for.”

The rhyme we used in our house was, “911 is not for fun.” I suppose that with kids using it to try and keep parents in line we might try, “Dial 911 to get out of a chore and you will end up doing many more.”

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