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In case of emergency (ICE) is a program that enables first responders, such as paramedics, firefighters, and police officers, as well as hospital personnel, to contact the next of kin of the owner of a mobile phone to obtain important medical or support information (the phone must be unlocked and working). The phone entry (or entries) should supplement or complement written (such as wallet, bracelet, or necklace) information or indicators. The programme was conceived in the mid-2000s and promoted by British paramedic Bob Brotchie in May 2005. It encourages people to enter emergency contacts in their mobile phone address book under the name "ICE". Alternatively, a person can list multiple emergency contacts as "ICE1", "ICE2", etc. The popularity of the program has spread across Europe and Australia, and it has started to grow into North America.
Following research carried out by Vodafone that showed that fewer than 25% of people carry any details of who they would like telephoned following a serious accident, a campaign encouraging people to do this was started in May 2005 by Bob Brotchie of the East Anglia Ambulance Service in the UK. The idea has taken off since 7 July 2005 London bombings.
"I was reflecting on some difficult calls I've attended, where people were unable to speak to me through injury or illness and we were unable to find out who they were. I discovered that many people, obviously, carry mobile phones and we were using them to discover who they were. It occurred to me that if we had a uniform approach to searching inside a mobile phone for an emergency contact then that would make it easier for everyone."
Brotchie also urged mobile phone manufacturers to support the campaign by adding an ICE heading to phone number lists of all new mobile phones.
With this additional information and medical information, first responders can access this information from the victim's phone in the event of an emergency. In the event of a trauma, it is critical to have this information within the golden hour, which can increase the chances of survival.
In continental Europe, the In Case of Emergency concept has been criticised for some reasons:
It is recommended that one carries contact information and relevant medical information in writing inside one's wallet, and not rely on ICE contacts as a primary means of identification.
Many smartphone models have dedicated ICE contact information functionality either built into the OS or available as apps. Saving duplicate phone numbers on a phone without dedicated ICE functionality may cause the ICE and regular contacts to be combined, or cause the caller ID to fail for incoming calls from a close friend or relative. (To avoid this, some use the "tel:" URI scheme to put the phone number in the ICE contact's "home page" field.)
For security purposes, many mobile phone owners now lock their mobiles, requiring a passcode to be entered in order to access the device. This hinders the ability of first responders to access the ICE phone list entry. In response to this problem, many device manufacturers have provided a mechanism to specify some text to be displayed while the mobile is in the locked state. The owner of the phone can specify their "In Case of Emergency" contact and also a "Lost and Found" contact. For example, BlackBerry mobiles permit the "Owner" information to be set in the Settings → Options → Owner menu item.
Alternatively, some handsets provide access to a list of ICE contacts directly from the "locked" screen. There are also smartphone "apps" (applications) that allow custom ICE and emergency information to be displayed as the "locked" screen.