A veteran British paramedic, long frustrated by trying to get contact information from shocked or injured accident victims, has come up with an idea that’s catching on in the United States — ICE (in case of emergency ) numbers programmed into cellphones.
Bob Brotchie, a clinical team leader for the East Anglian Ambulance National Health Service Trust, says that nearly everyone carries cellphones, but that first responders scrolling through an accident victim’s phone frequently have trouble trying to figure out whom to call. Close relatives, such as a spouse or a son or daughter, are often listed by name, making them indistinguishable from others in a long list of contacts. Sometimes paramedics have to look through victims’ wallets for clues, or just guess.
Brotchie launched a nationwide campaign in Britain in April 2005 to promote the concept of ICE numbers, backed by mobile phone company Vodafone. The idea took off in the aftermath of the July 7, 2005, terrorist bombings of the London subway system. It spread quickly from Britain to the United States, Australia and New Zealand with the help of international media coverage of the bombings.
“Most (paramedics) spend time looking for a cellphone, not knowing who to call. It occurred to me there might be a uniform way of doing this,” Brotchie told CBS’s The Early Show on July 26, 2005. “It’s certainly got the potential to save lives. What is more important, or more likely, is that it will expedite treatment and help people at the earliest opportunity. That’s been shown to have major beneficial effects.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that in 2003, 900,000 emergency room patients in the United States couldn’t provide contact information because they were incapacitated.
By using ICE numbers in a cellphone, emergency personnel can quickly find out whom to contact to confirm the identity of a casualty. And, in turn, the contact may be able to provide vital medical information such as blood type and allergies, and give consent for emergency treatment.
Monday’s post about “ghost cycles” got me to thinking about ICE numbers, which I have programmed into my cellphone. I know that many cyclists carry cellphones for use in an emergency, but I’d bet that few of them have programmed a list of ICE numbers. Carrying identification and insurance cards isn’t a bad idea, either.