Helping Your Fearful Child Feel Comfortable With EMS

We have all seen the scene at the mall. The child is put there with the mall Santa Clause or Easter Bunny and is absolutely in terror and crying their eyes out.  How can this be? Santa and the Easter Bunny are friends and would never hurt them.  Having done many Firefighter presentations at various schools, events, and EMS safety weeks, I have seen these same children have the exact same reaction to me when I put on my firefighting bunker gear. I can’t say I blame them completely. A guy in a bright red suit, a 6 foot tall bunny, and a guy in a bunch of gear with an axe in his hand and sounding like Darth Vader are not easy things to get used to.  The good news is that kids learn pretty fast that both Santa and the Easter Bunny are friends and bring them stuff they want. The bad news is that teaching them that the Firefighters are friendly as well will take some extra work.

In previous posts (Protect Your Family From Fire), we have talked about having a plan for exiting your house in case of fire.  In addition to this activity I would like to encourage you to take a trip to your local fire station, attend an EMS or Fire safety week demonstration, schedule a demonstration at your child’s school, or at the very the least look at some pictures and videos online about firefighters and their protective clothing.

Here’s a great video to watch with your kids.  It’s a little long, but they cover quite a bit about what your child needs to know about interacting with EMS personnel in the first four minutes. The last nine walks your child step-by-step through an example, from calling for help through the ambulance ride.

Teaching your children that the scary looking people moving around in the smoke are there to help and not to hide from them is a key in surviving a house fire. Having led demonstrations where the firefighter starts out in plain clothes, just talking and answering questions and gradually progresses to being in full gear, on air, and still talking as he/she has been to the children makes all the difference in the world. The children can start to understand that the person underneath all that gear is the same one that started the demonstration and that they are there to help them.

In the end, teaching your children about how firefighters dress and how they will look in all their gear will be a good experience for everyone and will deliver some valuable information for all.  And while EMS may not be Santa or a 6 foot bunny, we still might have some goodies for the kids.

I hope you have a safe summer.

About the Author

Greg Atwood is a Firefighter /Paramedic in Coral Gables Florida and works for the Coral Gables Fire Rescue. He is an American Heart Association certified instructor in BLS ( Basic Life Support ), ACLS ( Advanced Cardiopulmonary Life Support ), and PALS ( Pediatric Advanced Life Support ). Greg currently lives in Miami Florida with his beautiful wife Alexa and their 2 sons, Connor and Jake. Greg is a member of the PedSafe Expert team

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