A campaign to use cell phones to help in the treatment or identification of accident and disaster victims has taken off worldwide since the first bomb attacks in London earlier this month.
Mobile phone users are being urged to enter a number in their phone's memory with the acronym ICE, for In Case of Emergency, with the contact person's name and number.
Paramedics or police would be able to swiftly to find the number and use it to reach a relative or friend who could help identify deceased victims and treat injured ones, by providing vital personal information, including details of any medical conditions.
The campaign was launched in May this year, but had limited impact until the first series of London blasts. Those explosions rendered many victims unidentifiable, which sparked an e-mail campaign to spread the ICE idea around the world.
ICE is the brainchild of British paramedic Bob Brotchie, who
"Most (paramedics) spend time looking for a cell phone, not knowing who to call. It occurred to me there might be a uniform way of doing this."
"The advice," Brotchie says, "is that you first agree with that person that they be that contact, so they're aware of it. They must (be able to) confirm your date of birth, your name, preferably your address. Hopefully, things such as allergies, blood type, any previous medical history that may be relevant, and then we can get that information to the hospital, perhaps before we leave the scene of an accident, and that will expedite treatment. The hope is that the next-of-kin contact can meet us at the hospital at the same time and the treatment will be as rapid as it could possibly be."
Brotchie admits ICE isn't foolproof: "Where somebody locks the phone out, it's not for them at this time. And if the phone is broken in an incident or an accident, it's not going to work. Some may not agree with it. If you don't agree with it, we put information on our Web site so you can carry a card or some sort of contact information.
"The whole idea is that people should provide information for the emergency services to help treat you at the scene of an incident."
Brotchie says ICE could literally be a lifesaver: "It's certainly got the potential to save lives. What is more important, or more likely, is that it will expedite treatment and help people at the earliest opportunity. That's been shown to have major beneficial effects."