In Case of Emergency

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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.[1] 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 program has been criticized by some emergency responders and the hoaxbusters site.


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 of England Ambulance Service in the UK. The idea has taken off since 7 July 2005 London bombings.[2]

When interviewed on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme on 12 July 2005, Brotchie said:

"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 major trauma, it is critical to have this information within the golden hour, which can increase the chances of survival.


While some emergency responders lauded the suggestion[3] others have criticized it.[4]

In Germany, the In Case of Emergency concept has been criticised for many reasons:[5]

  • Medical service personnel on site normally do not have the time to contact relatives. Information stored in a phone is thus useless for medical care prior to hospital.
  • Contacting relatives of a seriously injured person is a sensitive task that is not carried out by telephone in the first place.

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.

Other problems include language-dependent text (ICE in English, ECU in French, etc. etc.), the difficulty of accessing locked, discharged or broken phones, differences among mobile models requiring training of emergency responders.

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.)

A "competing proposal" exists called E.123 which is also an official ITU-T standard.

The hoaxbuster site classified the claims of the program as "partly true, partly false".[6]

Locked phones[edit]

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. Android users running Android Nougat (Android 7.0) or higher also have the ability to program emergency information and contact details accessible by others through the emergency call screen when the device is locked.[7] Emergency contacts can be added to iPhone lock screens with the iOS Health application, and accessed by tapping or swiping to the Emergency dialer, where calls to 911 or another pre-specified number can be made, and the Medical ID button is displayed as well. When accessing this Medical ID, the user's name, health information, allergies and medications can be listed, along with the ability to directly contact listed emergency contacts.[8]

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 on the "locked" screen. For instance, the Medical ID Android app enables quick access to medical information and emergency contacts.


The popularity of the program is difficult to assess. A CNN article mentioned that the program might be spreading into North America, but gave different instructions to its readers.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Bob's idea has global impact (Cambridge Evening News) Archived 3 February 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ "BBC news report on ICE scheme". BBC News. 12 July 2005. Retrieved 11 July 2008.
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ "Private Notfallnummern (ICE) im Mobiltelefon: Richtigstellung des Arbeiter-Samariter-Bundes". 26 August 2009. Archived from the original on 12 December 2009. Retrieved 28 February 2010., in German
  6. ^ "For your ICE only". (in French). Retrieved 29 October 2017.
  7. ^,review-4091.html
  8. ^ Jill Duffy. "How to Add an Emergency Contact to Your Phone's Lock Screen". Retrieved 19 September 2017.
  9. ^ By Elizabeth Cohen CNN (7 February 2008). "If you get hit by a bus tomorrow". CNN. Retrieved 13 August 2009.

External links[edit]