ICE is taken – what should I call it now?
June 23, 2018 9:29 PM   Subscribe

Following common best practices, for a long time I've had an entry in my mobile phone called "ICE" for "in case of emergency". And now it occurred to me that a phone entry named "ICE" may be misinterpreted. Is it still considered best practice to call it ICE, or should I change it to something else?

I'm a middle-aged white male living in the USA. To say that I disagree with the current US administration would be a monumental understatement, but a random person on the street won't know that. I'm trying to imagine if I do get in trouble and someone finds my phone and looks for an emergency contact. Are they liable to misinterpret ICE to be something other than "in case of emergency"?
posted by StrawberryPie to Grab Bag (31 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This old white guy was, up until this point, unfamiliar with the acronym ICE meaning In Case of Emergency.
posted by Rash at 9:39 PM on June 23, 2018 [12 favorites]

If I were you I would simply relabel it 'Emergency'.
posted by HypotheticalWoman at 9:44 PM on June 23, 2018 [33 favorites]

I wouldn't guess that ICE meant In Case of Emergency. Wouldn't necessarily conclude that you had the gestapo on speeddial, just wouldn't know what it was. When phones only displayed like 10 characters an acronym like ICE might have made sense, but on a modern phone is there any reason you couldn't label your emergency contact something like Emergency Contact ? Maybe throw a space or underscore or asterisk in front if you want it to show up first in your contacts list.
posted by rodlymight at 9:47 PM on June 23, 2018 [4 favorites]

I think the ICE thing was popularised when contact names had to be short. I would avoid this and go with "In case of Emergency" or "Emergency contact" - or even "00Emergency Contact"

It's one of those 'clever' things were you would probably just be better to be more explicit.
posted by freethefeet at 9:51 PM on June 23, 2018 [6 favorites]

Leave it as ICE. It's not intended for the average person to understand, but for emergency personnel. ICE is required for the system to work. Don't let Trump's shenanigans distract you from reality.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 9:51 PM on June 23, 2018 [9 favorites]

Nothing on the Snopes page says that ICE is required for the system to work or that you couldn't rename the contact to something else. It isn't an automatic system; in this scenario the phone would be accessed by a person who presumably would understand the words "**Emergency Contact."
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 10:00 PM on June 23, 2018 [8 favorites]

On modern smarphones it may be better to get your emergency contact info on your lock screen, since paramedics/hospital staff don't have any special tools to unlock phones.
posted by muddgirl at 10:03 PM on June 23, 2018 [50 favorites]

I don’t get this. If you’re incapacitated, how is a stranger going to access any information on your phone? It’s locked, right? That Snopes page is from almost 15 years ago. It might as well be about land lines.
posted by mr_roboto at 10:18 PM on June 23, 2018 [14 favorites]

Why not just call it 911?

In the US context, that's more or less universally understood to be "for emergency," just as it would be 999 in the UK. If you feel you must rename it, go with something universal. FWIW, I'm not sure ICE would have done me any good had I been the person who found you, insensate & needing help.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 10:20 PM on June 23, 2018

"Why not dial 911?" This isn't about that. This is a number for emergency services personnel to call to inform family or whoever you designate as your emergency contact if you've been incapacitated and are unable to make the call yourself.

I personally think "**Emergency contact" or similar is greatly preferable to "ICE". This is the first I've heard of using that specific name as a contact. Though I'd agree it'd probably make more sense to put it on your lock screen.
posted by Aleyn at 10:26 PM on June 23, 2018 [3 favorites]

Even years ago, most people I knew went with "ICE (name)" -- "ICE Mom" or "ICE Ben". I don't think it's possible to confuse those with the government institution.
posted by steady-state strawberry at 11:06 PM on June 23, 2018 [5 favorites]

Seconding the others who point out that this was a recommended practice from the Nokia age of cellphones about 15 years ago. At that point it was fairly normal for a phone to have no kind of password protection - and the interface to enter text was much more clunky - multiple keypresses on a number key to get to a single letter. This meant that there was a reasonable chance that somebody finding a phone by itself - or next to an incapacitated person - could look through the contact details on it - and that a short, agreed name would make sense to publicise so as to tell them where to start.

These days it is much better to put any emergency number you want for this purpose on a lock screen. Or maybe to even write it on a label stuck to the phone. And there is no need to call it anything a cryptic as "ICE".
posted by rongorongo at 11:11 PM on June 23, 2018 [5 favorites]

My phone has this and I can't even change the name of it. In my phone it's listed as "ICE - emergency contacts." I can recall having an "ICE" entry on my cell phones for years by default. No one is going to see it and think you work for ICE and support Trump's monstrous immigration policies. If you have the option to rename it, you can rename it "ICE (In Case of Emergency contacts)."
posted by AppleTurnover at 11:48 PM on June 23, 2018 [4 favorites]

If you have an iPhone, use the "Emergency SOS" feature to put the key contacts on your lock screen.
posted by mr_silver at 3:03 AM on June 24, 2018 [15 favorites]

I have found lots of lost phones at work and even though I knew ICE I never looked for it. I would usually look for “mom”

On my own iPhone I do not have a lock/password and the first entry on my contacts is “AAA if lost please contact...”
posted by saucysault at 6:28 AM on June 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

Emergency physician here.

1) As others have said, you often need a passcode to get into someone's phone.
2) Even if you don't need a passcode (FaceID, fingerprint), it's pretty dicey territory to unlock someone's phone, so you'd better have a really good reason for it.
3) I have literally *never* done this, despite taking care of thousands of unconscious patients.
4) If you are unconscious for so long that your doctor needs to emergently contact your "emergency contact" (and can't wait til you sober up, for example), you've got more critical health issues to worry about, and you probably want your doctor addressing those.
posted by gramcracker at 6:30 AM on June 24, 2018 [16 favorites]

Android moto user - if I tap the emergency call screen when locked there's a place to add an emergency contact (emergency information). I would look for your phones version of this.
posted by typecloud at 6:35 AM on June 24, 2018 [5 favorites]

In Android 7+ you can pick emergency contacts from your contacts list so they can be called from the lock screen.
posted by farlukar at 6:58 AM on June 24, 2018 [5 favorites]

I have definitely never heard that "ICE" stands for "Emergency Contact" and would probably not have realized that that's what it meant if I were rooting through an unconscious person's phone trying to find out who to call for them. Just "Emergency" or "Emergency Contact" sounds safe enough. On the one time I had to do something similar to this for someone (in the case of a lost phone, not an incapacitated owner) I just found the contact entry labeled "Mom" and used that, which worked.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 7:53 AM on June 24, 2018

Also, you don't need a contact for "911" because it's literally just "911." Having a contact labeled "911" that actually went to your mother or whoever seems pretty confusing.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 7:54 AM on June 24, 2018

On an iPhone, on the Passcode screen, there's an "Emergency" text on the bottom left. If you click on it, you'll find an emergency call screen. On the bottom left, there's "* Medical ID" text. That's where your emergency contacts would go. These contacts are set up in the Health app under Medical ID.
posted by ancient star at 8:29 AM on June 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

How about using "JIC" (for Just in Case) instead?
posted by summerstorm at 8:38 AM on June 24, 2018

If it can be more than three letters, how about ICOE?
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:13 AM on June 24, 2018

1) It's well known here (UK) that ICE is an emergency number, although we don't have the "bad ICE" issue.
2) I know people who enter it as eg ICE Mum.
3) Emergency Contact would probably work as an alternative.
4) if your parents are who your ICE contact would be, it's likely that a medical professional (or whoever) going through your phone would just look for "Mom" and/or "Dad" anyway.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 9:14 AM on June 24, 2018 [2 favorites]

Your emergency contacts can have very long names indeed so they'll come up with some natural services, like: "Mom (mother ice parent emergency)" or, "Christine (emergency/wife/ice)" so they'll pop up with those things are searched.

If you happen to be around people who are really sensitive about you addition additional names to them in their phone contact because they don't like how they pop up on your phone screen, my advice is to get away from those people for good and find new emergency-contact-worthy friends. I have half a dozen friend groups I text for different reasons, and the guys at the cigar shop don't care that I have (cigars) next to their name anymore than I care that my best friend still has, in my contact name, the name of the company where we first met, decades ago (and honestly I only found out last month-- it's still funny to me).

> If you’re incapacitated, how is a stranger going to access any information on your phone? It’s locked, right?
This is the modern age, where foolish people unlock their phones using biometrics which will work just fine if they are incapacitated or recently dead, as long as they are still present.

> If it can be more than three letters, how about ICOE?
It can be dozens of letters; ICE came about when it couldn't. In any case, ICOE isn't something someone will search for; ICE might be, but only if they got that email about ICE that's been running around for a while. We can see that half this thread did not get that email, becuase it was like so many other PSA emails forwarded them from granny or mom or whatever other email newb they knew who took to heart every instruction to forward to all your friends, and who routinely type their ATM PIN code backwards whenever they feel distressed at the bank.
posted by Sunburnt at 10:24 AM on June 24, 2018

Most phones are locked and your contacts can't be seen. On my unlock screen it has my name and google voice number because maybe if someone finds it they might care about returning it. You could easily put an emergency contact # on the unlock screen.
posted by theora55 at 11:28 AM on June 24, 2018

I don't think anyone looking through your phone in an emergency would see ICE and think "that's wierd he has the immigration enforcement hotline in his phone. Asshole."

Echoing gramcracker :
You'd think it would get used way more often than it does but in practice it is super rare. If actually given the chance, (and I'd have to gave a damn good reason and tried everything else first...and it's litterally NEVER happened to me.) I'd look up ICE and common things like mom, dad, silbing, wife, husband etc). So don't make it obscure or I'd never try the number IF I had the chance.

Though honestly, lots of times the thing that gets one into to death and dying territory without anyone knowing who you are and who to contact 1)destroys your phone 2) it got stolen 3) everyone was in such a hurry to get you medical treatment it was left behind.
posted by AlexiaSky at 3:56 PM on June 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

If you have an iPhone, you can set up a Medical Card in the Health app that would have a designated emergency contact. When someone opens your iPhone's lock screen, they can then fail to authenticate, see the "Emergency" link, and then tap "Medical ID" to view and see the emergency contact.

I hope that helps and eliminates the need for this entry in the address book/contacts app - that is, if you have an iPhone.
posted by dubious_dude at 9:02 PM on June 24, 2018

When I find phones, i usually look for "wife" "husband" or "mom" contacts. IF i found you unconsious in the street, I would call 911. I think you need to ask modern paramedics and other emergency response people what they usually do as far as trying to notify relations.
posted by WeekendJen at 7:04 AM on June 25, 2018

On an iPhone if you press the on button 5 times in rapid succession it takes you to a screen with an SOS contact and a Medical ID option. Even when the phone is locked! Android may have an equivalent function. I learned this the other day on Facebook!
posted by Philby at 9:57 PM on June 27, 2018

First, I thank you all for your answers! As several people noted, the use of ICE started a long time ago when phones were very different (well, I guess everything was different, when you get down to it) and I suppose I was still stuck in that mindset. Also, although I have an iPhone, until people pointed out the Emergency feature, I didn't realize that the feature existed. It must have been added to iOS pretty recently. Anyway, I set that up on my phone and helped my spouse do the same.

It seems like we've covered this territory pretty well, so I'm going ahead and marking this question as resolved. Thanks again, everyone!
posted by StrawberryPie at 7:23 PM on July 3, 2018

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