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Ambulance official stresses importance of ICE on cell phones

February 28, 2006|by JENNIFER FITCH

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Emergency responders across the nation are frequently using cell phones for clues about unresponsive patients' identities, and they are asking the public to put important information on ICE.

Simply designating a few contacts as ICE (in case of emergency) in phones can give the responders quick access to the medical history and allergy alerts they need, according to Brent Frain, chief of Waynesboro Ambulance Squad.

"We've been checking phones. We've been doing that since Jan. 1," Frain said.

Since then, the squad has encountered four instances where responders have searched a cell phone for information. Those phones did not have ICE designations, so the emergency medical technicians dialed a contact and had to question the person about his relationship to the phone's owner.

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In some instances, the EMTs have looked at the patient's driver's license to obtain a last name and then found a contact in the cell phone with the same last name, Frain said.

If that patient had contacts saved as "ICE - mom" or "ICE - David," the EMTs ideally would have informed that close friend or relative about the situation and obtained critical information, he said. Those ICE contacts should have been informed ahead of time about their responsibilities.

Eighty percent of people don't carry next-of-kin details with them, yet the same percentage carry cell phones, according to a news release Frain provided on behalf of the regional emergency medical services council.

Frain and the Waynesboro EMTs reviewed the ICE program, which originated in the United Kingdom, while examining each other's cell phones to learn how to access the contacts.

"We all carry cell phones, different makes or models," Frain said.

The news release notes that ICE contacts become useless when cell phone owners lock access by requiring a password.

Frain has ordered pamphlets with more information about the ICE program for distribution to the public.

Also, there is a service that ties ICE principles to a database for an annual fee. It is discussed at www.icecontact.com.

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