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Put Your Cell Phone on ICE

Posted Jul 13th, 2009 by Trisha Torrey

More than cooling your liquid refreshment, ICE may save your life.

I’m not talking about wrapping those cold water cubes into a towel to apply to a sprain or sore muscle.  No, I’m actually talking about a phone number.

Whose phone number?  Your emergency contact’s phone number. This ICE refers to In Case of Emergency.

The ICE initiative was begun in Great Britain by a paramedic who was frustrated by his inability to find emergency contact information for too many of the victims he needed to treat and transport to a hospital. He suggested people begin programming emergency contact information into their cell phones so paramedics and EMTs could easily find it. The idea spread quickly across Europe, especially after the London and Madrid train bombings. Paramedics, EMTs, emergency room personnel and the public embraced the idea.

ICE then crossed the Atlantic to the US. Emergency personnel know to look for ICE on a cell phone. Now it’s time to educate the public to do the programming.

That’s where you come in. Here’s how it works:

Just as you add any of your other contacts to your cell phone, set up a new contact and name it ICE. On the same line, input the name of your contact and if you have room, that person’s relation to you, e.g. ICE – Jane Smith – wife.

Then fill in the rest of the contact information such as home phone, work phone, cell phone – whatever it takes to find that person should you be unable to respond in an emergency. If you want to have more than one contact person, call him ICE-2.

You’ll want to add ICE to the cell phones for everyone in your family. Programming your child’s phone to make you the ICE contact will give you some peace of mind. If he or she is off at school, or soccer practice, or even at a friend’s house, it’s a simple thing for someone to pick up his or her cell phone to call you if there’s a problem.

Next, using a permanent marker, write ICE somewhere on the cell phone. Make it obvious for emergency personnel to find.

And don’t forget, if you get a new cell phone, or buy an additional one for your family member, be sure to transfer the ICE phone number. 

While you’re at it, tell everyone you know about ICE – at work, your relatives, your neighbors and friends. It’s simple, and may be lifesaving.


About the author

Trisha Torrey is Every Patient's Advocate. She is a newspaper columnist, radio talk show host, national speaker, and the guide to patient empowerment at

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