Miss. patients urged to add 'in case of emergency' numbers


By Kat Bergeron
Sun Herald
Copyright 2007 The Sun Herald , Biloxi, Miss. 

BILOXI, Miss. — When Dale Cupp accidentally shot himself this week while apparently wrangling with yellow jackets and a venomous snake near his garden, emergency personnel were able to locate his wife and mother because the Stone Countian had put their names in his cell phone address book as "mother" and "wife."

"I love technology," his wife commented in the hospital waiting room.

A major difficulty for police, hospitals and other emergency personnel is locating the family or spouses of someone injured, unconscious or dead.

With so many Americans now with mobile phones, a growing number in emergency management advocate applying ICE as a remedy to locating family in emergencies. ICE stands for "In Case of Emergency."

The idea for inputting the ICE acronym into a cell address book, along with the number of your emergency contact, spread several years ago on the Internet. The positive buzz was quieted by pranksters who claimed ICE triggered a virus that allowed access to your financial information. It wasn't true, according to such reliable Internet debunkers as snopes.com, but the scare stopped many people from using ICE.

Several years later, the Internet is again abuzz with "please forward this to everyone you care about" ICE e-mails.

"I have been able to locate families through cell phones," said Gary Hargrove, Harrison County coroner. "I try to look for the same name so that it might be a family member.

"Instead of word of mouth over the Internet, this ICE idea or something like it would have to be public knowledge and all emergency personnel would have to be educated in its use. There would have to be an education campaign, but I think ICE, or something similar, is a good idea."

At this point, until word spreads, Hargrove uses "home," "mom" and "dad" on his phone. But if you scrolled on the phone of Rick Fayard, you'd find "ICE."

"I input it last week," said Fayard, who is the public information officer for American Medical Response. "In our profession, we've known about ICE for some time but it doesn't do you any good unless you have it in your phone. Now I do. I've listed my wife and my dad as ICE1 and ICE2."

Fayard says AMR periodically reminds paramedics about ICE, although their first job is to stabilize the traumatized person, not locate family. As Fayard suggests, people who use ICE can list more than one emergency contact by using ICE1, ICE2, etc. Another option, of course, is to list "husband," "parent" or "emergency."

"EMR No." is another label Biloxi Police Sgt. Jackie Rhodes believes would be recognized.

"If you're worried that enough people don't know about ICE you can use identifying words," said Rhodes. "We've had cases where someone was in an accident and unconscious but there were so many names to sort through on the cell phone. It would be much easier to have one or two identifiable numbers.

"In my cell phone I have 'home' listed. Everyone should have something like that in their cell phones, however they want to word it."

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