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What Does "in Case of Emergency" Mean?

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  • Written By: Helen Akers
  • Edited By: Jessica Seminara
  • Last Modified Date: 10 November 2016
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"In case of emergency" is a preparation protocol that lists emergency contact information using the acronym "ICE." A British ambulance service worker started the concept in 2005. Anyone can choose to list their "in case of emergency" contacts on a mobile phone application or with a doctor or hospital.

A person's list of contacts is used by emergency workers to notify friends and relatives of a life-threatening situation. The "in case of emergency" call list is extremely helpful if an individual becomes unconscious or unable to respond. Authorization for surgery and life support may be needed. In addition, if a person passes away as the result of an accident or natural disaster, emergency responders have a way to notify the next living relative.

Many hospitals, doctors, fire stations, police departments and ambulance workers are educated about the "in case of emergency" program. A list of contacts contained in a mobile phone address book, personal digital assistant or day timer may be used in order to locate an appropriate person to call. These pieces of personal property are usually searched for when victims of an accident are located or discovered. When the contact information is labeled with the letters "ICE" or has "in case of emergency" beside the name, emergency personnel are left with no doubts.

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The program is not without criticism. First, it assumes that everyone stores emergency contact information in a mobile phone. Though they may be few and far between, some people choose not to carry cell phones. Others may not be able to afford purchase and usage costs associated with cell phone ownership. There is also the chance that the contact information contained in a user's cell phone will be outdated or incorrect.

This is most likely to occur when cell phone owners upgrade or switch phone models. They may put off transferring contact information from the old phone to the new one. Even though the program has encouraged cell phone manufacturers to incorporate a "ICE" label into the software, some owners may not use it or even be aware of its significance. If the owner does happen to be proactive about maintaining a current "in case of emergency" call list in his phone, those listed as contacts may not always appreciate their personal information being readily available to strangers.

Other criticisms of the "ICE" program include the fact that emergency personnel do not always get a chance to sort through a mobile phone contact list. Several areas of a hospital prohibit the use of mobile phones due to the fact that the wireless signals interfere with medical equipment. In severe situations, there may not be time to locate a phone, let alone take it to an area in the hospital where cell phone use is permitted. There is also always the possibility that an owner will place a lock code on his phone to prevent unauthorized use.

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