Another lifeline

July 20, 2005

ONE OF THE STRONGEST arguments for getting a cell phone is that it is handy for calling for help during emergencies, large and small. A little tweak would make it handier in the biggest: when phone owners are so incapacitated they can't make the call.

By adding the prefix "ICE" ("in case of emergency") to an entry in the phone's address book, cell phone users could ensure that if they lose consciousness, police and ER workers know whom to call to find out who they are, what medical conditions they have and whether it is OK by them to resuscitate, operate or donate organs.

While all people should carry identification and medical alerts with them, a surprising number still are John or Jane Does at critical moments. In 2003, some 900,000 emergency room patients did not have contact information, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Of course, it wouldn't work for everyone. Cell phones often fly out of the hands of people in car crashes and can't be immediately found. And not everyone has gone cellular.

But for those who have, programming in another cell phonebook entry is a free and easy safety plan.

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