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ICE (In Case of Emergency)

Miami Herald
ICE on cellphones speeds rescue
Several local fire-rescue and police departments are promoting a simple plan to help them provide better emergency care and, possibly, save lives: ICE.

When Broward County paramedics reached the mangled car that had smashed into a tree and came to rest on the side of the roadway, they immediately started working on the young woman trapped inside, bleeding profusely from head injuries.

Since the woman was incoherent and carried no identification, rescue workers worried worried about her medical background. Does she suffer from seizures? Is she a hemophiliac? Does she have any allergies to certain medications?

There's an easy solution for this type of situation, paramedics say. They want every person to have personal information stored in their cellphone, which would serve as a high-tech medical alert tool.

The process even has a name -- ICE, an acronym for In Case of Emergency -- and it's already being used in Europe and is now being pushed in different areas around the United States.

''Without emergency contact information, medical personnel are behind the 8-Ball when trying to treat someone,'' said Captain Ken Kronheim, of the Broward Sheriff's Office

On Friday, BSO's Fire Rescue officially will launch ICE at a press conference, with help from two emergency rescue workers from the United Kingdom -- where the year-old campaign was developed.

'If a paramedic needed to contact someone, it was just a case of going through `obvious' numbers like Mum, Dad, etcetera -- but they may not be the person you'd want contacted,'' said Matt Ware, head of communications for the East Anglian Ambulance Service in eastern England.

He and British paramedic Bob Brotchie will be in Broward Friday for the ICE rollout.

The British paramedics used a survey conducted in the country last year that showed 75 percent of the people interviewed didn't have emergency contact information on them. But more than 85 percent carried a cellphone.

The concept has gained momentum since the London terrorist bombings last month after emergency workers had difficulty identifying victims and notifying next of kin.

Soon Internet messages about the ICE program were popping up around the globe.

''It seems like a simple fix for a problem I've run into hundreds of times during my career,'' said BSO Fire Rescue Captain Dave Erdman. ``I can't tell you how many seizure, overdose, diabetic, stroke and trauma patients I've treated over the years who were unable to communicate..''

Miami police agree contact information on phones is helpful for hospital personnel and law enforcement.

''We do look at people's phone numbers when there is an emergency, and it can be especially useful when an officer is working a serious injury where next of kin needs to be contacted,'' said Miami police spokeswoman Herminia Salas-Jacobson. ``It's one more tool for hospital and fire-rescue personnel and law enforcement officers.''

Over the last several weeks, fire departments and police agencies across the country, like Chicago, San Francisco, Lexington and Oklahoma City, have issued information about ICE.

Suburban Chicago police agencies and fire departments are planning a promotion this year in local schools, targeting the younger generation who have cellphones, but do not generally carry contact information.

The idea is just starting to take hold in South Florida.

'When I heard about it [in an e-mail] I said to myself `Wow! What a great idea,' '' said Samantha Buchholz, 19, of Coral Springs. ``I'm putting my contact numbers in my cellphone.''

Local fire and police departments are sending out internal bulletins alerting their personnel about ICE.

''We put a memo out Aug. 2 alerting everyone and asking that they get the word out and start checking cellphones,'' said Stephen McInerny, assistant chief of operations for Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue.

``This new tool will prove very valuable because we've run across medical emergencies where someone is lying on the side of the street having a seizure and we don't have any information. If that person had several emergency numbers in their phone under ICE, that would enable us to provide a better level of customer and emergency medical care.''

While plugging emergency numbers under one name in a cellphone is not a foolproof plan, it will help those who deal with victims, rescue workers say.

''We hope to accomplish removing the detective work from our duties,'' Erdman said. ``If someone had ICE programmed in their phones, we wouldn't have to play medical detective when someone was unconscious or unable to speak to us.''

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