As a first responder, I’ve come across my fair share of heartbreaking scenes: people losing homes to fires, teenage suicides, messy car accidents, and elderly patients who have had to go to the hospital alone because of COVID restrictions. As a father I count myself lucky I haven’t had to come across any pediatric patients yet, but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time.

As an Emergency Medical Technician in training, we learn to prepare for the worst, and that includes treating children whose lives are in danger. So when any of my friends ask for first time parenting advice, I always tell them the same thing:

The best thing you can do as a new parent is to take an infant and child first aid and CPR course.

My wife and I took one offered by the local community college once before my daughter was born and again right before my son was born. We were fortunate enough with my daughter to never need the skills that we learned, but my son was another story.

As a tactile child, he very much liked to explore his world by putting everything and anything in his mouth. He’s also one of those kids who likes to chipmunk food in their cheeks while they play.

First, it was a piece of leaf. Then it was part of a cracker, a chunk of chicken, a crispy piece of kale, and—just a few weeks ago—a piece of half-chewed sandwich.

Every time our first aid training kicked in. Five quick back slaps and the food came right out. And if that didn’t work, I knew exactly what I’d need to do next—five abdominal thrusts—to keep my son breathing and safe. 911 is a wonderful invention of modern civilization but when minutes count the best thing you can rely on is being prepared for the worst.

If you’re in the US, the American Red Cross and American Heart Association (AHA) both offer Infant and Child First Aid and CPR classes in just about every town and sometimes even online. They can generally be completed in about 6-to-8 hours.

You can find Red Cross classes here and AHA classes here.

As a parent, you already know how wonderful—and stressful—kids can be. Take the time to reduce some of that stress by learning how to help save them from their wonderfully curious selves.