In case of emergency, skip cell phones


Many folks throughout the country have programmed emergency contacts in their cell phones under the heading “ICE,” an acronym for In Case of Emergency.

The ICE Campaign is an Internet-fueled initiative to get everyone with a cell phone to enter their emergency contacts, making it easier for emergency medical personnel to reach friends or family members in case of a tragic accident where the patient is unconscious or in shock.

It’s a wonderful idea, emergency responders in Federal Way say. But it won’t work.

“In an emergency, we are not taking the extra time to go through a cell phone looking for numbers,” said Kendra Kay, spokeswoman for South King Fire and Rescue. “It’s a great idea. It could help people. But on our end, it doesn’t matter either way.”

When the fire department responds to an emergency scene, such as a horrible vehicle collision, for example, its first priority is stabilizing the victims and transporting them to a hospital, Kay said. Rescue workers routinely look for identification cards such

as driver’s licenses or student IDs to send with the patient, but they do not routinely search the scene for cell phones.

At St. Francis Hospital in Federal Way, staff do not look through cell phones for contact information, said spokesman Gale Robinette.

“This is the first time I’ve ever even heard of that,” Robinette said. “If a patient comes in who’s unconscious, they’ve been shot or in a horrible accident... hopefully they have ID on them and you start there.”

“Most people have some form of ID on them,” he said.

Often times, hospital staff will enter a patient’s name from their ID into a computer system and emergency contact information will be stored from a previous hospital visit, Robinette said. If not, staff will use the information provided on the ID to locate a family member.

The hospital’s primary focus is not locating the family, but caring for the patient, Robinette said.

“The first priority is to assess their injury or illness and provide the care that they need,” he said.

Someone who is worried about being properly identified in case of emergency should carry their identification with them at all times, Robinette said.

“It’s always good to have ID on you just so that people know who you are,” he said.

According to a July 18, 2005, article in the Washington Post, the ICE Campaign began in April 2005 in Great Britain and gained popularity after bombings in London. The campaign appears to have caught on in Britain, but has not gained noticeable momentum in the Federal Way area.

Contact Margo Horner: or (253) 925-5565.

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