PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – A Philadelphia fifth-grader received a special citation today from the Philadelphia Fire Department for the way he handled a fire emergency last February at an assisted living center in his neighborhood.

On the morning of February 16th, Mahlon Graham and his sister were walking to  St. Francis de Sales School in West Philadelphia when they saw smoke coming from a nearby assisted living facility and a woman at one window screaming for help.

At a school special assembly today, Philadelphia fire commissioner Lloyd Ayers recounted the incredible presence of mind the 11-year-old showed when he pulled out his cell phone and made the call to 911.

Mahlon, worried that his sister wouldn’t be able to handle the unfolding scene, sent her ahead to school.

“We listened to the tapes,” Ayers told the assembly today, “as he carefully told the dispatcher the exact address of the fire, that people were in trouble, and to hurry.”

The information he provided, say fire officials, brought more equipment immediately to the scene and probably saved lives.

Today, Mahlon Graham had a message for other kids — that they can make a difference, too:

“Stay calm. If you see someone who needs help and no one else is around, get out your cell phone if you have one and call 911.”

Sister Mary McNulty, the school’s principal, was thrilled with the way Mahlon had risen to the occasion.

“Imagine at age 11 saving lives the way he did,” she said.  “It was spectacular! And we are so proud of him.”

Reported by Michelle Durham, KYW Newsradio 1060.