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THE Port of Larne has joined forces with the Larne Community Policing Team, the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service and the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service to bring a life-saving initiative to the local area.

"Message in The Bottle" is a very simple but effective scheme which gives emergency services immediate access to vital medical and personal information - thus saving valuable time when dealing with an emergency situation.

The Port of Larne has provided funding to purchase 5000 specially designed bottles, containing a "Message in The Bottle" form and stickers which are recognised by the emergency services.

Sick and elderly people are encouraged to complete the form which includes details of medical conditions, emergency contact details, doctor's details etc., place it in their fridge and put the "Message in The Bottle" sticker on the door.

The emergency services, who will look for the sticker, will then have immediate access to this information.

Mr Keith Millar, Managing Director, Port of Larne, explains the company's involvement in the scheme:

"The Port of Larne is committed to supporting initiatives which have a direct benefit to the local community. Precious time can be lost if the emergency services do not have immediate access to vital information.

"By bringing the 'Message in The Bottle' scheme to Larne, the Port of Larne is helping to address this. If we can save just one life through the 'Message in The Bottle scheme', then this initiative will be a success."

The "Message in The Bottle" scheme is initially aimed at the elderly, people living on their own, people with specific medical conditions or allergies / vulnerable persons. Anyone who falls within these categories is encouraged to get involved with the scheme, which is completely free of charge.

Larne PSNI Inspector Noel Rogan commented: "Often when the emergency services are responding to a situation, a few minutes can make the difference between life and death.

"In tragic circumstances such as a sudden illness, this scheme means that relatives can be informed as quickly and sensitively as possible," he said.

"By having immediate access to key information, I believe that lives can and will be saved. I would appeal to those eligible for this scheme to get involved."

The "Message in The Bottle" scheme originated in Canada but is now widely used throughout England and Wales.

Lady Sylvia Hermon MP, Ulster Unionist Home Affairs Spokesperson, has called on the government to make this scheme available throughout Northern Ireland.

"The simplicity of this scheme is what makes it so effective and I have no doubt that lives are being saved in the areas where it is available. I would like to wholeheartedly commend the Port of Larne for bringing this scheme to the Larne Borough," she said.

Bottles will be available from a variety of local outlets including PSNI, Larne Borough Community Safety Partnership, Doctors' Surgeries, Post-Offices, Church Groups, the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service, Home First Community Trust, the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue, Housing Executive and the Larne Home Safety Committee. They are also available at the local DUP advice centre in Lower Main Street.

In addition to the scheme, Police would also urge everyone within the community to key in emergency contact details into their mobile phones under "ICE" - (In Case of Emergency).

If you should suffer serious injury or an illness whilst out and about anyone who assists you can access the information and your next of kin can be informed. Vital personal information regarding illnesses can then be obtained immediately.

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