The first thing you may be asking is, “What is an ICE List?” ICE or In Case of Emergency is a vital list which every person should highly consider having because you never know when the next emergency may happen.

Bob Brotchie, a British paramedic, conceived the ICE program in 2004. His program encourages people to make an ICE list in their phones and to save the contacts of their ICE list as “ICE1,” “ICE2,” and so on and so forth. At a time when there are over 6.8 billion cell-phone subscriptions, there’s no excuse not to have your “In Case of Emergency” contacts in your phone. Vodafone conducted research which revealed that less than 25% of people carry emergency contact information on them. This prompted Brotchie to begin a campaign in May 2005. Since the 2005 London bombings, the idea has gained traction.

Brotchie said on BBC Radio 4 Today on July 12, 2005 “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.”

A phone with a post-it note

But, what about locked phones? How can first responders access your ICE list if your phone is inaccessible? Nowadays, many people have their smartphone locked, and only people with the code are allowed access. In situations like these, it would be pretty difficult to get the code in order to access the ICE contacts. Many manufacturers allow some text to be displayed while the phone is locked, such as the kind of information you might want displayed during an emergency. Apps exist as well which make it easier for first responders to access your ICE list, including the ICE app. The ICE app displays your ICE list on your phone’s lock screen. Not only can you list your emergency contacts with the app, you can also list what blood type you are, if you are diabetic, etc. But in today’s society, phones are not the only things which can be used to help contact the right people during emergency situations.

Social Media Network

Facebook now has a feature called “Safety Check.” It’s not surprising that in the age of social media, a crisis feature would exist on the largest platform. When a disaster happens, many people look to Facebook to find out if their friends and loved ones are OK. Safety Check allows friends and family to know that you’re safe, allows you to check on others in the area which the crisis has affected, and to allows you to mark your friends as safe as well. Facebook was influenced to create this by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, in which more than 12.5 million people were affected and more than 400,000 people were evacuated.

If you are unwilling to put your ICE list on your phone’s lock screen, you can fill out an ICE card and keep it in your wallet. You should make sure to update it on an annual basis, and include all relevant medical details, emergency contacts, and anything else you think may help first responders.

Family sitting together

Now, you may be asking yourself “Who should be on my ICE list?” You should add your closest family and friends (make sure they know about it before adding them). This includes your spouse, siblings, and parents. Information which may be relevant to your list includes; allergies, blood type, prescriptions, chronic conditions, immunizations, procedures you’ve been through, and insurance information.

In addition to having ICE contacts available for first responders, you should have emergency contacts available for yourself in case you are able to make a call. This includes your local fire and police departments, poison control, nearby hospitals, your doctor, animal control, and others. These are not numbers you want to have to spend time looking up when you need quick access to them. Make sure they are in your phone now so you will have no problems later.

So, what are you waiting for? If you don’t have an ICE list, go make one. If you already have one, make sure it’s up-to-date with all relevant information. Even neglecting to list one minute detail (an allergy) could mean the difference between life and death.


Barak Bacharach, SkySaver Content Manager