Seven-year-old honored for assisting grandmother in emergency

“I knew that she needed help,” Zach said.

The quick thinking first grader, who attends Helke Elementary School in Vandalia, did not panic. Instead, remembering lessons he had received at school, he called 911 and got his grandmother assistance.

Page was honored for his quick thinking and mature response by the Vandalia Fire Department at a school assembly earlier this month. Zach was given the fire department’s Civilian Medal of Honor and a Vandalia fire department T-shirt. Tuesday, February 5, was also proclaimed Zachary Page Day in the city of Vandalia by the city’s mayor.

“Zach acted in an adult, controlled manner, called 911 and with a strong voice told the dispatch exactly what was wrong,” said Vandalia Fire Chief Chad Follick. “He told the dispatcher ‘I need an ambulance,’ and stayed on the line for a minute and 13 seconds. He was able to calmly tell the dispatcher his name, address, what the problem was, confirm his address and answer other questions.”

Zach met Follick, the first responder on the scene, in the driveway of his grandparents’ home and led the chief to his fallen grandmother. She was treated at the scene and did not have to be taken to the hospital, Follick said.

Zach had learned how to handle an emergency through the Passport to Safety program, an educational program taught by Vandalia public safety crews to all incoming kindergartners in the Vandalia-Butler School district. Follick estimated that between 200 and 250 children take part in the program each year.

“When you hear it’s a seven-year-old making the call, you’re not always sure what you’re going to get, but Zach did exactly what we had taught him to do,” Follick said. “He sounded like an adult the whole time. He’s a real hero.”

Zach admitted to being initially scared when his grandmother fell but knew he had to get her medical attention.

“A lot of times, kids are more apt to remember what to do in emergency situations even as the adults start to panic,” Follick said. “I think the Passport to Safety program is so important because it ingrains in their muscle memory what they need to do. The program is one we’re the most proud of.”

Zach, who wants to be a doctor when he grows up, said he planned to wear his medal around school throughout the day and at home at night.

“I want everybody to see it,” Zach said.