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System alerts kin in emergency

In Oakland, victim's phone is a tool

July 13, 2006

Some Oakland County fire departments are promoting a new technology program designed to help locate emergency contacts for people in need of medical attention.

The idea is to use a potential patient's cell phone to alert family members and friends.

The program is called ICE -- In Case of Emergency -- and was the brainchild of Bob Brotchie, a paramedic in Cambridge, England. Brotchie came up with the idea after London's transportation system was bombed last July. After the explosion, bodies were everywhere, and some people were unconscious.

Brotchie's thinking was that ICE would have allowed emergency workers to reach the victims' relatives and friends if they could've simply dialed numbers programmed in a victim's cell phone.

Now, ICE has gained attention in Michigan. Rochester Fire Chief Daniel Jacobson heard about the program through an e-mail. After reading about the program, he and officials from other area fire departments decided to institute the system.

"We have a lot of older individuals that may not have anyone at the home with them," he said Tuesday. "With this program, we can get information ... like medical history. This is the major, major benefit of it."

Besides the Rochester department, fire departments in Auburn Hills, Rochester Hills and Oakland Townships are pushing the program.

Those in the medical field say the program could be helpful, and potential users say it could save a life.

Use of the system is just starting in the United States, but once Matt Levy, the national organizing director for the International Association of EMTs and Paramedics, heard about the program, he told fellow EMS professionals about it. Levy said the program has gained widespread support.

"When I was active in the field, there were many times when I was unable to communicate with someone because of trauma or any kind of medical condition," Levy said Tuesday.

"It's a great help in identifying a person" and getting "immediate and pertinent medical information in a timely fashion, especially when eight of 10 people carry a cell phone, but only two of 10 people carry a medical information card."

Glenn Lemmon, 74, of Rochester Hills could benefit from the program. He was born with Huntington's disease, but wasn't diagnosed until 12 years ago. The disease, which has symptoms similar to those of Lou Gehrig's disease, limits most of his functions, causing him to go into choking fits and preventing him from pressing buttons on a telephone to call for help. His wife, Margaret Lemmon, 74, and daughter, Trudy Diedrich, 54, may not always be there to help.

The ICE program lets them know they'll be contacted in an emergency.

"You never know when something is going to happen," Margaret Lemmon said.

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