Preschooler's ease in emergency draws praise

Boy who called 911 for aid to be honored at banquet

March 02, 2004|By Julie Bykowicz | Julie Bykowicz,SUN STAFF

Four-year-old Chip Osborne knew just what to do when his baby sitter collapsed last year.

The preschooler dialed 911, calmly told the dispatcher what was going on and gave clear directions to his house in Pasadena, even noting that it had a long driveway.

Last week, Chip, now 5, received several citations - and a toy firetruck - for his actions, which helped ensure that 16-year-old Corinne Ebert got swift medical attention. Chip will also be honored at a firefighter awards banquet in May.

Fire safety education programs teach children to dial 911 in an emergency, but preschoolers are usually so awed by the firefighters delivering the message that they don't always understand the importance, said Division Chief John M. Scholz, an Anne Arundel County Fire Department spokesman.

"When a 4-year-old understands what to do," he said, "that's really something special."

The 911 call came in at 8:40 p.m. May 13 from the Osbornes' home on Shady Lane.

Dispatchers are used to hearing children's voices on the other end, but most times they're just experimenting with 911, not calling for an emergency, Scholz said.

But it soon became clear that this call was legitimate. Chip told the dispatcher that his baby sitter wouldn't wake up.

A fire engine and paramedic crew from the nearby Lake Shore fire station rushed to the scene, where they found that Ebert had fainted after suffering a migraine-related illness. She said she has no memory of what happened, just that she was feeling ill one moment and then "woke up a week later in the hospital."

Chip's preschool teacher at Mount Carmel, Cathy Popp, said she wasn't surprised that her pupil knew what to do.

"He's that kind of boy," she said. "He's a very nice, very bright little boy."

Popp said the 4-year-olds are always impressed by the annual fire safety lesson, during which firefighters talk to the class and she plays a video and a song about dialing 911.

Chip's mother, Megan Osborne, said her son has a copy of the video he watched in class, and that he plays it so often that her family has it memorized.

The Osbornes, who were at a banquet that night, were pleased - if taken aback - to learn what their son had done.

"I was stunned to hear that he had picked up the phone and dialed 911," Osborne said. "I didn't even know he knew how to dial the phone, period."

Since the incident, Chip has grown even fonder of all things emergency-related, his mother said. He loves his Rescue Heroes toy set and his parents always point out firetrucks.

The baby sitter said she is still amazed by Chip's ability to focus during an emergency.

Later that month, Ebert said, she had a similar medical emergency in the hallway at Chesapeake High School. "My friends didn't know what to do, and they're 16 and 17 years old."

Chip showed signs of maturity during the 911 call, though he did ask the dispatcher whether the paramedics might be able to do him one little favor when they arrived at his house: His brother - about 9 months old at the time - needed a check-up, too, Chip can be heard saying on the 911 tape, because "he's a little cranky."

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