Emergency contacts from your phone?


Cell phone is such a necessity now a day, it is probably hard to find anyone without one. Even many elderly have adapted and learn how to use a smart phone. It is specially nice for the elderly as it really helps to keep them connected and entertained.

But have you ask yourself, during an emergency, will the contact information on your phone help to locate your love ones? It seems like it should be a must have feature for the phone, so I try to set it up for all my friends and families. To my surprise, it is not as simple as I expect.

The problem is, to protect the private information on the phone, most people will have a lock on the phone. But if the phone is locked, how would emergency workers be able to use the phone to locate your emergency contact?

This is such a common problem that I would expect cell phone industry would have a simple way to resolve it.

  1. Have a simple user interface to define your emergency contacts
  2. Allow displaying and calling to emergency contacts while the phone is locked

Should not be too complex? right? But no no, after spending some time searching in the internet, I found the solution for our phones through a maze of information.

So for the fun of it, let me share my findings with you.

Firstly, there are apps out there that will assist on this.  I was not happy as I feel that this should be core features provided by the phone.  In addition, most of apps are complex to use and not free.

Secondly, there are many suggested work around, some are specific to some version and model of the phone, none of them seems to be very reliable solution as they may not be compatible after a few system upgrades.

Finally after further research, I found native solution for both Android and Iphone, that are acceptable and most likely reliable as well.  The solution are not simple for an average novice phone user.  I hope the following instruction may help.

For Android phone, there is a concept of ICE (In Case of Emergency). Here is what you need to do:

  1. Assuming that you use google contact, create a group called ICE, and add your emergency contacts to the ICE group.
  2. On you phone, on the screen to unlock the phone, click on the option for “Emergency Call”,  and in the next screen, you will be able to view the ICE contacts.  In my Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, it also has an option to create 3 ICE contact shortcut right on the screen.

Now your Android phone is set up for emergency personnel to use your phone to locate your emergency contact.

For iPhone, it does not support the notion of an ICE group, but it has a concept of a “Medical ID” from the Apple Health App that comes pre-install on your iPhone.  Here is what you need to do:

  1. Open the Health App, select option to create a Medical ID, the name is misleading to me, it is really a “Medical Profile”.  You can add in additional information like birthday, medical condition, allergies, … etc, and a list of emergency contacts.
  2. On your phone’s locked screen, once again, there is an option for Emergency Call, and there is a link to access your “Medical ID”.

I do find that Apple idea of “Medical ID”, which is really a medical profile, an excellent concept and seems to cover all the requirement.  Although the Health App is probably the last place I would look to try to solve this problem.

On a side note, one of the interesting workaround people suggested on the internet was to create a contact name “ICE”, with the emergency contact information, and the emergency personnel can  say to Siri “Contact ICE”. I doubt if the emergency worker would know this is what you have on your phone 🙂

I hope that this article is helpful to you somehow.