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155 S. Seward St.
Juneau, AK 99801

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Juneau Police Department

Questions Posted to "Ask a Dispatcher"

Q. None of my nieces and nephews who have little kids has a landline phone. All rely entirely on cell phones. They think it is perfectly reasonable. I think it is incredibly irresponsible. Does JPD have a view? I don't think a 3 to 6 year old can be expected to know how to dial 911 on a cell, if they can even find it. Can you even find a home that has dialed 911 on a cell? I actually don't even like digital phone service where you must sign a disclaimer that 911 may not be reliable. But cell phones? I would really like to hear your view on the safety of living in a building that has no landline phone at all. Mostly so that I can know whether to voice my concerns or to remain silent. Am I really hopelessly old fashioned? Oh my god, this is a Dear Abby question, isn't it? Well, so be it.

Dear Juneau Resident,

(NOTE: We are assuming the concern is for in the event that a 3 to 6 year old has to call 911 for an emergency involving the adult that is supervising them and not that the 3 to 6 year old children are being left alone.)

The best advice we have is to use a landline whenever possible when dialing 9-1-1. It is much easier for us to locate you.

To further elaborate on your specific questions, each of us hopes our youngsters will never be put in a situation requiring they call 9-1-1. However, there are many emergency calls placed by young children every year. Speak with your nieces and nephews about the steps that are necessary to assure the safety of their children. Having chosen not to have a landline, they should have a cell phone that is always kept in a well known, easily-accessible, specific location in the home. (Even an old phone that is no longer connected to a service provider should be able to place a 9-1-1 call.) Be sure the cell phone is always charged and that it has signal. Assure each child knows how and when to dial 9-1-1. (Keep in mind that on a lot of cell phones, simply holding the number 9 will unlock the keys, dial, and send an emergency call.) Last, yet extremely important, TEACH CHILDREN THEIR ADDRESS.

If you have ever called 9-1-1, you know the first question, and most important factor, is “Where?” Again, teach children their address, but also practice giving a location when it is not their home. Speak with them about how to describe where they are. Do some role-playing so that they are comfortable. You might be surprised to find them completely foreign to the concept or you may be delighted to discover they can handle themselves just fine. Know that children learn very quickly and it is good that you practice with them now, so they don’t have to stumble through the process in an emergency.

One final note, YES, children call 9-1-1 from cell phones ALL THE TIME. More often than not, they are calling accidentally because their parents have given them an old cell phone to play with, forgetting that it still has 9-1-1 capabilities. (If you just got a sheepish look because you’re one of those parents, do us a favor and pull out the battery. Please?)


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