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City says 'ICE' your phone for emergencies
Program could help get vital information

Mel Meléndez
The Arizona Republic
Jul. 14, 2006 12:00 AM

As far as acronyms go, "ICE" is a short one.

But don't underestimate the power of the three letters if properly used with cellphones, Phoenix city officials say.

Phoenix has joined the growing number of municipalities encouraging residents to store "in case of emergency" names and numbers in their mobile phones. The effort assists paramedics, firefighters and police who often waste valuable time searching victims' phones for next of kin information following accidents, medical emergencies or disasters. advertisement

"It's a simple way to protect yourself and your loved ones by granting easy access to what could be life-saving information," said Phoenix Fire Department Chief Bob Khan. "Because many victims are often unconscious and can't provide this critical information."

Phoenix Fire annually responds to about 150,000 calls - nearly 90 percent of them medical emergencies, Khan said. So storing next of kin contacts, such as "ICE - Mom," in cellphone address books could help access vital information on medical conditions or aid in identifying deceased victims.

British paramedic Bob Brotchie came up with the idea for ICE, in early 2005. But the campaign gained momentum several months later following the terrorist subway bombings in London where officials struggled to locate the relatives of dozens of unidentifiable victims. About 55 commuters died and more than 700 were wounded, according to police reports.

It didn't take long for first responder teams on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean to see the value in Brotchie's plan, which is endorsed by the International Association of EMTs and Paramedics.

"It's such an easy thing to do, that everyone realizes there's no real downside to it," said Officer Kathy Ralph, a Phoenix police spokeswoman. "Everyone has cellphones now, so why not use them to assist those in emergencies?"

The number of U.S. cellphone users has doubled over the past six years to 215 million, according to San Francisco investment bank Rutberg & Co.

But more than three quarters of the mobile phones lack emergency contact information, according to the city's June Notes publication, which accompanies water and sanitation bills.

"Listing 'Mom' or 'Dad' in the phone isn't enough, because it has to be someone that's easy to locate and willing to help you with life-changing decisions," Ralph said. "My cellphone lists 'Dad.' But he wouldn't be my ICE contact because my father is often in Europe on business."

Laveen Village resident Carlos Medina, 28, hailed the ICE campaign for its simplicity and effectiveness.

"What a great idea that doesn't take much effort on any of our parts," said Medina, an administrative assistant. "I hope a lot of people do it, because I think it's smart to be prepared in case of an emergency. It makes perfect sense."

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