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The Life Transition Blog

Remember to Add ICE!


Sometimes we forget to take even the most basic steps to protect ourselves or our loved ones in the event of an emergency. I’ve been surprised over and over when I ask clients if they have added ICE to their cell phones, wallets, and glove compartments. Most often, I’m greeted with a questioning look. Of course the ICE I’m asking about isn’t the kind in the cocktail you take with you to watch the sunset on the beach! I’m talking about ICE: In Case of Emergency.

Today, emergency first responders such as police officers, firemen, and paramedics or emergency medical technicians are trained to search a victim’s cell phone for an entry labeled “ICE”. This is how they know who to call in the event that something has happened to you. So, the first thing I advise my clients is to create at least one emergency contact in their cell phone. In addition, I suggest that a laminated card with the same information be placed in the glove compartment of each of your vehicles and in your wallet. Finally, if you take walks and don’t tend to carry your phone or your wallet, I suggest punching a hole in a laminated emergency card and attaching it to your house key. That way, if you collapse on the street during your walk you will be quickly identified and your emergency contact may be notified.

The first question that usually comes up in this discussion is who should be listed as your emergency contacts. I recommend that you list at least two people, one of whom should be the person you have named as your health care surrogate. Ideally, this person will also know other important information about you and your health, including who else needs to be contacted and the name of your primary physician.

The next question I’m frequently asked is what information should be listed on the card where you have more room than what can easily be incorporated into an ICE contact in your cell phone. Start with your name! You’d be surprised at how many people forget how easy it can be to be separated from your wallet containing your identification, especially in an emergency. In addition to your name and the list of your emergency contacts and their phone numbers, some people choose to include other information such as allergies, a list of current medications, the name of their physician or attorney, and so on.

As with so many other parts of our lives, technology is available for this purpose as well. If you choose to, you can subscribe to a variety of services that store your emergency information and/or your medical history and will provide it to first responders in the event of an emergency. Such services require that you wear or carry an identification tool such as a bracelet or wallet card that instructs emergency workers of the number to call and your member identification number. You will also have pre-loaded your personal information into the service’s database, usually via a secure website, along with instructions regarding the circumstances under which your personal information can be accessed and by whom. Of course this type of a system only works the way you intended if you wear or carry the identification at all times and keep your data up to date in the service’s repository.

If you prefer, there are special encrypted flash drives marketed to hold your complete medical record including recent test results and your full list of medications and conditions. If you go this route, you must also remember to carry this with you at all times if it your only form of emergency information because if it isn’t with you then no one will know that it exists.
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