By Dr. Anthony Policastro

One of my grandsons learned to dial 911 in kindergarten. He was so impressed with it that when he got home, he decided to do it just for fun.

The good news is that he actually learned how to do it using a smart phone. In the days of the touch tone phones, children learned how to dial 911 in an emergency. There are many stories about young children making 911 calls to save someone’s life.

Then we progressed to smart phones. You don’t just pick up a phone and dial. You could go to the phone app and dial. Or you can use the emergency SOS dialing method.

For example, iPhones have what is called an Emergency SOS call setting. It can be accessed by going into the general settings. There you can find directions as to how to have the phone dial 911.

The setting also allows you to put emergency contacts in it so they will receive a text message when you dial 911. A key question is whether owners of the phone know this. A second one is whether they have set it up.

Thus even adults may have trouble rapidly dialing 911 on their phone. Some researchers looked at how easy (or hard) it was for children to do that.

Young children frequently use a smart phone. Actually, 80 percent of them have some kind of access to a phone. However, they rarely use it just as a telephone. Therefore, knowing how to do so may not be that obvious.

A group of researchers looked at that. They asked parents if they had talked to their child about dialing 911. Half of the parents had done so. Actually 34 percent of them had practiced making the call.

They then had an actor read a book to the child in the school library. During the reading the actor pretended to choke and then acted like he had passed out. His phone was sitting on the desk in front of him.

The first question was whether the child realized that this was something that required calling 911. Eighty percent of second and third graders did. Forty percent of kindergarteners and first graders did. Therefore, recognition of an emergency itself was an issue.

Once they recognized it, taking action was not consistent. Even though 80 percent of the older children recognized the emergency, only 20 percent of them called 911. None of the younger children made a call. Of the ones who made the call only one of six could answer the dispatchers’ questions.

There is clearly room for improvement here. This is an area where parents need to be heavily involved. Actually, it might be one of them who will need the 911 call made by the child.

Not only do they need to know how to make the call but they also need to know the serious nature of it. We don’t need them all having fun like my five-year-old grandson.

COVID Update- Nationally the weekly total has gone from 148,000 to 167,000. That is not a real increase. The numbers appear to be steady around 150,000. In Sussex County the weekly totals have gone from 122 last week to 97 this week. It is likely that we will remain about 100 for a while.

Nationally, 51 percent of the total population (children included in that population figure) has had one dose with 41 percent fully vaccinated. In Delaware 55 percent of the total population has had one dose with 44 percent fully vaccinated.

To this point 92 percent of high risk individuals 65 and older in Delaware have received at least one dose of vaccine. That number is at 59 percent for individuals age 18 to 64. It is 26 percent for those 12 to 17.

With the limited number of changes now occurring, it would appear that a weekly update may no longer be necessary.