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Newburyport enters ICE age
By Ulrika G. Gerth/ newburyport@cnc.com
Friday, April 7, 2006

Police and emergency personnel often have to spend crucial minutes searching for contact information to notify loved ones during an emergency.

Officer David Knight hopes that will soon no longer be the case.

On a mission from Marshall Thomas Howard, Knight this week started an informational campaign to educate residents of a new program called ICE - In Case of Emergency. The concept encourages people to enter their emergency contact information into their cell phones or other address devices under the acronym.

Rather than having to search every imaginable place for not only the identity of the incapacitated person but also who to notify, emergency responders can check the phone for an ICE entry. Quick access to relatives or friends may also help emergency room doctors gain information on the patient's medical history, he said.

Knight during the next few weeks will spread the word with a presentation at the Council on Aging and an appearance on local cable TV with representatives from American Medical Response and the local emergency room.

"To have a systematic approach would be wonderful, no doubt about it," said Katherine Collamore, director of emergency services at Anna Jaques Hospital. "We've had occasions when we've struggled to find next of kin or a phone number and have had to look through phone books and call 411 ... it's fabulous that the Police Department is getting this going. We up here will benefit greatly."

The need for a program has become more obvious in recent years as the city has seen a great influx of new residents, Knight said. It was not that long ago that he and his colleagues knew practically every resident and did not have to think twice of whom to contact in case of an emergency.

"Now we don't know who they are or who to call," he said. "If someone is so seriously hurt that you'll lose them, you'd like to get hold of someone right away. I hope to spark a little interest and get people talking about it."

Some residents already are part of other emergency response programs such as Lifeline or HELPS. But the majority do not have contact information stored in a place where police can find easily find it, Knight said.

Although schools have students' emergency contact information on file, Knight said police are at a loss if something happens after hours. As most children now carry cell phones, they could take advantage of the program.

Elderly residents who do not have a cell phone may want to get a disposable version just for emergency use, Knight suggested.

"Every minute is important so if everyone had an ICE contact - bang, boom - you know who to call," said Council on Aging Director Roseann Robillard. "There're 6,000 baby boomers in town and most of us have cell phones. It'll have a great impact on the community now and it'll definitely have it in the future."

The program was developed by an ambulance service in England and evolved into the ICE Contact Corporation that now has an office in Georgia. Although used in many parts of the country, the concept is largely unknown in Massachusetts, Collamore said.

The company offers memberships to those interested in more than just programming an ICE contact into their cell phones. An ICE Solo membership, for example, allows people to store four emergency contacts and their essential medical information in a database. An ICE identification card, key fob tags and vehicle decals alert medical personnel that the information is available.

"I can't sell the plan," Knight said. "But we can make people aware of it and let them know that we're aware. Just keep it simple."

About ICE

ICE - In Case of Emergency - An acronym developed by ambulance paramedic Bob Brotchie in Europe that has been entered into the Macmillan English Dictionary.

Designed to assist police, fire, emergency medical responders, ambulance services and hospitals in making contact with a victim's family members and friend and to gain vital medical information about the patient.

How to use it: Simply store the letters ICE in your address book in your cell phone and enter your emergency contact telephone numbers. Emergency personnel can locate your ICE contacts and notify them of your situation.

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