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Friday Philosophy – ICE {In Case of Emergency} January 31, 2010

Posted by mwidlake in Friday Philosophy.
Tags: , ,

ICE is a simple concept. In this case it stand for In Case of Emergency and the idea is to store a contact number on your mobile phone under the identifier of ICE. Then if you are in an accident, suddenly become very ill or are in any other way incapacitated, your ICE number can be called. The person you list under ICE is someone who knows you well and hopefully knows of any medical conditions you have and who can get in touch with others. It can be incredibly useful to medical services to know if you are alergic to common drugs or have any known medical conditions (like heart issues or diabetes). I guess in worst scenario of you being, well, not alive anymore, it gives someone to contact who would want/need to know. What a nice, simple use of modern technology! Go one, get your phone out and put and ICE number in now.

The idea originally came from Bob Brotchie, a UK paramedic.
The idea has caught on enough that there are companies in America trying to make a bit of profit out of it {something that I feel slightly negative about} and it has a wikipedia entry.

There is one big issue, which is if you have locked your mobile phone, no one is going to be able to see your contacts and thus the ICE details. This is something that others have thought of and one suggestion is to make your wallpaper show your ICE contacts.

However, this idea of ICE only works if people know about it and use it. I became aware of this last year when I saw an old lady collapse in the street. She just stopped, staggered a little and went down, attempting to take a brick out of a wall with her head as she went down. Three or four of us rushed over, thankfully one was a nurse so she took charge of looking after the patient. We others quickly found her phone. I bet what you are now expecting me to say is that she had no ICE number. She might have, but none of us knew to LOOK for an ICE number. We took pot-luck on the number saying “Jack at work” or something and thankfully got her husband.

Maybe we were an unusually unknowing bunch of people and all you lot reading this know about ICE numbers, but given we were all turned on enough to come to the lady’s aid, one was a nurse, I work in IT and none of us knew about this useful use of technology, I suspect it is not that universal an idea yet. I only know about ICE as my H&S brother told me about it only a couple of weeks after the above incident. {He was asking me if I could see a negative side to it and all I could think of is that if someone found/stole your phone then they had a known “someone who cares” number for you, but then they also have your whole contact list if you do not lock your phone, with things like “Mum” and “Uncle Bob” on it}

However, it takes only a couple of minutes to put an ICE number on your phone, so nothing is stopping you doing it. If you have a modern “all singing, all dancing” phone you might have an ICE feature or app you can download to show ICE information with the phone still locked (my phone is only 4 months old but has no such feature, but then it was a cheap, temporary “just for the week” buy when my old phone committed suicide). A quick check shows the iPhone app can also show things like drug susceptibility and known medical issues too, which is more immediate help to emergency services than a contact number.

So, I would encourage you to put an ICE number on your mobile phone. I would also encourage you to spread the word about ICE. It’s a great, easy, simple use of technology, but only if it is popular.



1. Doug Burns - January 31, 2010

Thoroughly useful post, Martin (not that the rest aren’t of course) certainly not something I knew about …

2. Tim Green - February 3, 2010

Just a little note about this great article! Bob Brotchie is now endorsing a smart-phone application that is taking his concept to the next level! Bob is working with EMS Options, LLC on the iPhone application smart-ICE and their family of apps. smart-ICE applications allows the user to store all of the medical data needed in an emergency in their smart-phone, minimizing the issues with needing to contact a family member before treatment. These apps use an international ICE symbol and have features that will alert paramedics if the patient is unconscious.

Your overall assessment of the fact that not everyone is aware of it is accurate, but it takes eveyone passing the word in forums like this to make this life saving concept an everyday word in everyones vocabulary! Thank you for the article and help focusing people’s attention on ICE (In Case of Emergency)!

Tim Green
smart-ICE developer
EMS Options, LLC

3. rnm1978 - February 4, 2010

it’s a good idea in principal, but I can’t be the only one who locks my phone keypad can I? Both to stop people pratting around with it but also if it gets nicked. That’s the limitation to it that I see.

mwidlake - February 4, 2010

Indeed Robin, I see that as a bit of a problem with it, but then people are looking to use the phone wallpaper to show this information. I have no idea if an app can be developed for smart phones that allow one button to be presses to show ICE information, even if the keyboard is locked for any other purpose. It is the sort of thing I would have thought the manufacturers would consider adding to phones.



rnm1978 - February 5, 2010

true – and in the same way all phones can still make an emergency call even without a SIM or if the keypad is locked, they could have this functionality.
I suppose i’m cynical as to whether the manufacturers would bother 😦

4. Friday Philosophy – Software being Good is not Good Enough « Martin Widlake’s Yet Another Oracle Blog - February 5, 2010

[…] Uncategorized. Tags: behaviour, knowledge trackback In a previous Friday Philosophy on In Case of Emergency I mention that something being simply a “Good Idea” with technology is not good enough. […]

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