Babysitting: Emergencies

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Babysitting: Emergencies

Most babysitting jobs go smoothly and the worst thing that happens is a fight over the last ice pop. But for the rare times when an emergency does happen, you need to be ready to handle it. That means thinking ahead and planning for anything that could happen.

Prepare in Advance

Like a surprise pop quiz, some emergencies — such as poisoning, choking, or falls — require that you know the material. Before you even begin babysitting, it's a good idea to learn basic first aid, the Heimlich maneuver (for choking), and infant and child CPR. These allow you to begin providing emergency care to a child while you are waiting for help.

To sign up for these courses, check with your local hospital, YMCA, or Red Cross. Besides offering training in things like CPR and the Heimlich maneuver, some may even offer extensive babysitting courses. Some high schools offer this, too.

Because you'll have to attend courses and make a real commitment to learn these lifesaving procedures, talk it over with your parents before signing up. That way they know how important it is to you and can drive you to classes if you need them to.

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Top Things to Know About Emergencies

  • Know the full address of the home where you're babysitting in case you need to call emergency services (if there's a fire, for example).
  • Be sure you have easy access to emergency numbers. Have parents post numbers for the Poison Control Center and other emergency info in an obvious place or program them into your phone.
  • Only do CPR or the Heimlich maneuver if you've been properly trained. If you don't know what you're doing, you could injure a child.

Fire

When you babysit for a new family, ask the parents to write down their full home address. It may sound basic to ask for this kind of information, but it's so basic that many people forget. If you need to call 911 from the home phone, the dispatcher will probably be able to tell where in the United States you are located but will still need an address.

Every family should have a fire escape plan with more than one exit from the home, as well as a designated meeting place outside the house or apartment building. Be sure that both you and the kids know them. To feel even more prepared, make it a fun activity to practice the escape route with the kids.

Ask parents if the smoke alarms in the home are working and how recently they've been checked. It may remind them to check the alarms.

Finally, ask the child's parents to show you where they keep fire extinguishers. If you're not familiar with using one, read the instructions or ask the parents for a demonstration.

If you smell smoke or see a flame in the house, call 911, gather the children, and put the fire escape plan into action right away.

Be Prepared, Not Scared!

It may seem scary to think about this stuff — it certainly brings home what a huge responsibility babysitting can be. Although it's unlikely you'll ever need to react to a serious emergency, just knowing what to do can help you feel more confident. Plus, knowing things like CPR or the proper way to do the Heimlich maneuver could give you an edge over other babysitters: Parents feel much safer when their sitters know these lifesaving techniques.

Reviewed by: Kate M. Cronan, MD
Date reviewed: August 2013

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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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