Playing it Safe with ICE and ECI

Playing It Safe with ICE and ECITwo Emergency Contact Initiatives Could Save Your Life

By Jennifer Ewing

Plenty of bumper stickers rail against drivers who yap on their cell phones. And while it’s never a good idea to text at the wheel, your phone just might save your life in a serious car accident.

As part of a globally spreading initiative called In Case of Emergency, or ICE, law enforcement officers are encouraging cell phone users to enter emergency contact numbers into their phones under the name ICE. (For multiple contacts, one can simply list ICE1, ICE2, etc.)

British paramedic Bob Brotchie created the system several years ago. He had been on a number of difficult calls in which people were unable to speak due to illness or injury. Often cell phones provided the only clues to these individuals’ identities.

“It occurred to me that if we had a uniform approach to searching inside a mobile phone for an emergency contact, then that would make it easier for everyone,” Brotchie said during a 2005 program on BBC Radio.

The ICE system does just that. It allows first responders to quickly identify accident victims and reach their family, friends or physician. In some cases, these contacts can provide health information essential to the victim’s survival.

In Florida, ICE is one of two main programs meant to aid officers and accident victims during times of emergency. The second initiative, simply called Emergency Contact Information (ECI), allows anyone with a Florida driver’s license or identification card to go online and enter the information of two emergency contacts at the Web address Developed after Tiffany Olson of Manatee County lost her teenage daughter in a 2005 car accident, ECI is an “example of turning tragedy into triumph,” said Taroub J. Gauding, communications director for Florida’s Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

Already, law enforcement officers access the ECI system approximately 15,000 times per month.

In some ways, ECI actually trumps the ICE system. ECI allows individuals to include a name, address, phone number and the relationship between oneself and the emergency contact, whereas ICE provides only a phone number. Also, the success of ICE depends on cell phones, which may break or be thrown from a vehicle during a collision. Even a simple cell phone mix-up could create life-threatening confusion.

However, as ECI is a statewide initiative, ICE may be more advantageous when traveling outside of Florida.

Ultimately, there is no reason the systems can’t be used simultaneously.

“We believe that the systems complement one another,” Gauding said. “Anything that can help rescue workers and law enforcement officers make contact with loved ones or a physician during an emergency is helpful.”

Both ICE and ECI are free, easy to use and might make the difference between a trip to the hospital and the loss of a life.

Siteseeing: Street Smart Web sites The Web site of the AAA Foundation compiles the latest research on driving safety, with links relating to safe driving for teens and seniors and information on the dangers of driving while using a cell phone. Known for its annual Top Safety Pick Award, The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety is a nonprofit organization that conducts scientific crash tests to help reduce hazards on the nation’s highways. The institute’s Web site provides safety ratings of popular vehicles and booster seats, as well as transportation-related news and statistics. This site provides interesting facts about the history and progression of the 20th century’s top engineering achievements, including the automobile.

Did you know?

In 2006, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 1.6 million emergency room patients could not provide contact information because they were incapacitated.