General yipped. That’s what woke me up at 2:10 a.m. on a Sunday last fall. Not a full-bodied bark, or a whole lot of barking as he typically does at just about anything that makes a sound, but a single yip. The next thing I heard were footsteps. I didn’t know if they were coming from inside our house or on our porch. I only had to say Garrett's name and he was out of bed and responding, “I hear it too.” Garrett took a few steps down our back staircase and then rushed back to me, telling me to call 9-1-1. Someone was breaking into our home!
The next moments were like slow motion scenes from a suspense movie. My heart begins to pound in my ears, I am grabbing my cell phone from the nightstand, I am thinking about the safety of my two children who are sleeping down the hall, I am listening to the doorknob rattle on our first floor while someone is ramming his shoulder against the door, and I am trying to call 9-1-1. This is not a drill. This is for real a voice in my head is stressing.
After repeated attempts, I realize I’m not getting through because I am punching in the numbers on my key code, not the dial pad. And even though an “emergency” button is clearly visible on the screen, my mind is fuzzy so I continue to try to organize my brain to enter my code and advance through the next screens until I finally reach the dial pad to enter 9-1-1 and call for help.
All ended well. An intoxicated bar patron misjudged our city blocks while stumbling home, but the incident left me bewildered by the clumsiness of our emergency plan. Could I have saved precious time by consciously reviewing and practicing how to call for help on a cell phone? Had I instructed my 11-year-old son clearly enough on an emergency situation like this, so that he would know that he could override the pass code? Our family had rehearsed our home escape plan for fires so that it would run like a well-oiled machine, but we overlooked a critical detail about calling 9-1-1 from our cell phones.
The pervasiveness of cell phones can be beneficial, but challenging for both adults and children when it comes to calling for help in an emergency. As Fire Prevention Week approaches, NFPA addresses this issue in a new 10 minute mini-lesson that can be presented during a fire station tour, or as an add-on to nearly any public education presentation. No matter what the emergency, reaching help as quickly as possible, is always key. I know that my family has since made it a priority to review the use of our cell phones during an emergency so everyone in our family knows what to do and how to do it. We all play an important part– including General.