MAHOPAC, N.Y. - Red E. Fox, the mascot for the Putnam County Bureau of Emergency Services 911 for Kids program, recently made a surprise visit to Fulmar Road Elementary School’s first graders.  The smiling, orange, furry fox greeted students while dispatcher Robert (Robbie) Shannon, and other team members of the Putnam County Bureau of Emergency Services, provided the students with the fundamentals for calling 911 in an emergency.

As it was explained to the first graders, 911 is the number to call to get help in a police, fire, or medical emergency. A 911 call is transmitted over dedicated phone lines to the 911 answering point closest to the caller. Trained personnel then send emergency help as needed.

Shannon also shared the basics of when and why you need the police, fire department or an ambulance.  He then covered the proper way to dial 911 in an emergency if there is not an adult available to make the call.

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“Stay calm. Give your name and address loudly and clearly. If you do not know the address, then you can help describe where you are. Be sure to answer all questions that are asked of you,” said Shannon. “Do not hang up until the dispatcher says it’s OK to do so.”

Knowing when it’s not appropriate to call 911 was also emphasized.  “There is an alarmingly high number of 911 calls that are not an emergency,” Shannon said.  In particular, Shannon reinforced not to dial 911 when there is no emergency; the situation involves animals; to practice, or as a joke or prank.

Prank calls not only waste time and money, but they can also be dangerous. If 911 lines or 911 call takers are busy with prank calls, someone with a real emergency may not be able to get the help they need. In some communities, it is considered illegal to make prank 911 calls. “We will find you if you make a prank call to 911,” said Shannon.

If you call 911 by mistake, do not hang up. Tell the dispatcher what happened so there is confirmation that of no emergency.

Students and Shannon talked through “real life” situations for using 911. For instance, if a student suspects being followed by a stranger, then they should:

• Look for the nearest house with an adult at home – look for an open garage or kids playing outside.

• Tell the adult that someone is following you and ask him or her to call the police, the sheriff’s department or 911.

• Give the officer a description of the stranger, including age, height, weight, and color of hair and eyes. Also, mention any unusual articles of clothing you may have noticed.

“We started the 911 for Kids program in Putnam County to start the conversation early with kids about emergency calling.  The more education students have about how and when to call 911 means more lives can be saved,” Fox said.

More information about Red E. Fox can be found on Facebook at @RedEFoxPC911 or redefoxpc911@gmail.com.