In Case of Emergency (ICE): Simple Ways to Help Others Help You in an Emergency

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Most likely you have seen a television drama during which a man or woman is involved in an accident and cannot be identified. He was out jogging and, when found unconscious, he had no identification. Her bus was involved in a major accident, and her purse was lost between the scene and the hospital. Though they may seem a little farfetched, these types of incidents can and do occur every day.

Today, one thing that almost everyone carries with them is their cell phone. A lot of us are much more attached to our phone than our wallet. To be easily identified if you are in an emergency and medical information is needed, there are some simple steps to let those caring for you know who can help them help you in the best and most timely way.

Dennis McKenna, M.D. at New York's Albany Medical Center, conducted a study regarding this issue. He told, "We are often struggling to reach family members when a patient cannot speak to us, and the first place we might look is a cell phone. A family member or friend is one of our best resources for learning about the patient's medical history. Our study shows that people are very willing to program their phones as long as someone tells them why and how to do it, or even does it for them."

It is quite simple. In your contact list on your telephone, enter ICE as a contact. You can include your emergency contact's name, address, telephone numbers and their relationship to you. There are several applications ("apps") available for cell phones where you can enter this information. Some apps can now be linked to Smart911, and your emergency information is saved "in the cloud."

If you don't carry or use a cell phone, you can still have this information available. You can save your emergency contact's name and information in your wallet or vehicle glovebox. If you wear a medical alert bracelet or necklace, the information can be added to it. Many people who run wear a bracelet or an identification tag on their shoe.

There are other programs that are similar that will provide medical personnel access to your information in case of emergency. Tennessee launched its Yellow Dot Program a few years ago, and it is easy to sign up by visiting

Smart911 is another program that can be used to assist first responders in a medical emergency. It is easy to set up an account, and you can fill in your emergency contact information as well as medications or medical conditions you have. To learn more, visit

While you hope never to be in this situation, it is always a good idea to be prepared - especially when it is easy to do so.

Adrienne Newman, MSSW, LAPSW, is the associate executive director of FiftyForward and also directs the Supportive Care Services program. She is often tapped as a community resource on aging issues.

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Health & Wellness
Adrienne Newman, FiftyForward, safety
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