August 8, 2005
No one wants to think
about the possibility of facing a medical emergency. Whether it
be a car accident, a problem while out for a run, or maybe even
an incident while on vacation, medical personnel can offer better
assistance when they know who you are and have some medical history.
Even less popular than thinking about a sudden injury or illness,
is the idea of thinking about how anyone would know who to contact
if your injuries or ailments were fatal.
contact systems were set up after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks,
such as the nonprofit National Next of Kin Registry established
in January 2004 that shares information provided to state agencies
in the event of an emergency. The registry was set up by Mark
Cerney, a disabled Marine who noted that the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention reported that in 2003, 900,000 emergency
room patients could not provide contact information because they
Whether or not people
carry their driver's licenses -- or other forms of identification
-- they may have cell phones.
"Cell users are
being urged to put the acronym ICE -- 'in case of emergency' --
before the names of the people they want to designate as next
of kin in their cell addressbook, creating entries such as 'ICE
-- Dad' or 'ICE -- Alison.' At least two police forces in the
United States are considering the idea, according to the initiative's
British-based promoters, who say there has been a flurry of interest
since the recent bombings in London. Paramedics, police and firefighters
often waste valuable time trying to figure out which name in a
cell phone to call when disaster strikes, according to current
and retired members of the emergency services, who said they must
look through wallets for clues, or scroll through cell address
books and guess."
This "flurry of
interest" has largely traveled though email around the world.
With anything that makes the round on-line, there can be a little
truth mixed with fiction. In
"Claim: Paramedic advocates cell phone users store
emergency contact information in their address books, but such
entries leave phones vulnerable to attack.
Status: Multiple � see below:
* Paramedic advocates cell phone users store emergency contact
information in their address books: True.
* 'ICE' entries in stored in cell phones allow viruses to access
those units and drain them of their credits: False."
Paramedics DO recommend
the practice, and using the ICE designation will NOT compromise
information stored on the phone, or the phone itself. That said,
it can sometimes be difficult to match a phone to an owner, while
some form of identification that carries a photo is often easier
to connect with an individual if there is a problem. The U.S.
Department of Homeland Security recommends that all Americans
create a family plan in case of disaster. Part of creating this
plan includes a wallet card to be kept with the driver's license
or other identification. This card is to include the following
Meeting Place Telephone:"
Why have such information?
"Your family may
not be together when disaster strikes, so plan how you will contact
one another and review what you will do in different situations.
It may be easier to make a
long-distance phone call than to call across town, so an out-of-town
contact may be in a better position to communicate among separated
Even if there is not
a national disaster, medical personnel can use this same information
in the event of a personal emergency. Similarly, when traveling
out of the country, two of the top ten tips recommended by the
U.S. Department of State to "make your trip easier"
address emergency contact information.
"If you are traveling
abroad here are [two of] the top 10 tips you need to make your
1. Make sure you have a signed, valid passport and visas, if required.
Also, before you go, fill in the emergency information page of
your passport! ...
5. Leave a copy of your itinerary with family or friends at home
so that you can be contacted in case of an emergency."
Whether a person is in
a country where a tsunami strikes, the victim of a crime or terrorist
attack, or is simply unable to communicate because of a medical
problem, the information carried in written form can serve as
a voice. This can help bring help sooner, and can help emergency
personnel better serve the needs of patients and their families.
"When an American
dies abroad, the Bureau of Consular Affairs must locate and inform
the next-of-kin. Sometimes discovering the next-of-kin is difficult.
If the American's name is known, the Bureau's Office of Passport
Services will search for his or her passport application. However,
the information there may not be current. ... In the case of an
injured American, the embassy or consulate abroad notifies the
task force, which notifies family members in the U.S. The Bureau
of Consular Affairs can assist in sending private funds to the
injured American; frequently it collects information on the individual's
prior medical history and forwards it to the embassy or consulate."
Here in the United States,
it is important to know about a program that is active in much
of the nation -- especially if you babysit or have younger siblings.
"The CHAD program
involves the distribution of stickers, which can identify children
involved in traffic crashes, and should be placed on the side
or rear of the child safety seat. This program was launched in
Illinois in 1992, as a result of a traffic crash involving a 13-month
old boy. The child's sitter who had been driving, was killed in
the crash and the boy, named Chad, was rushed to the hospital
with serious injuries. The toddler had to wait for more than an
hour for medical treatment, because hospital officials were unable
to identify him until a family friend happened to walk by his
gurney. Later, Chad's parents teamed up with the Illinois Department
of Transportation to produce the CHAD stickers so that this nightmare
would not happen again on our roadways. ... CHAD stickers contain
space for identifying information about the child such as name,
parent's information, emergency contact information, medication
and allergies, and special needs. ... responders can look for
the sticker with potentially life-saving information to ensure
rapid identification of the child by law enforcement and emergency
medical personnel in such an emergency."
Questions of the Week:
Do you normally carry identification? Do you normally have anything
with you that has emergency contact information? In what situations
are you, your peers, or your family members less likely to have
identification or contact information where a medical professional
could find it in the event of an emergency? What information should
people have with them at all times? How can you carry this information
so that you or a medical professional can easily access it if
the need should arise? How should this information be carried
so that it is not easily accessible to strangers or others who
should not have it?
Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.
I look forward to reading
what you have to say.
Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum