How Your Cell Phone Can Save Your Life

Almost any cell phone can get you rescued. But a smart phone gives you more ways to reach help. When cell phones were first introduced, a key selling point for families was the help they could provide in an emergency situation. Even the limited functionality of the early phones allowed you to reach emergency services.

Prepare yourself for the unexpected.

bruce sallan accident 2005 rescued by cell phone call to 911

My partner Bruce Sallan was able to reach 911 from an accident in a remote location in 2005 using a cell phone

Here are eight tips for helping yourself or loved ones following an accident or other emergency situation.

1. Program Your Cell Phone to Let Your Family Find You

Verizon, Sprint and AT&T all have locators to let you find missing members of your family.  If you are lying unconscious somewhere, this could help speed them to you.

2. Smart Phone GPS Can Help You Give Directions to Rescue Workers

Most smart phones have GPS functions now. If you are conscious, this could help you give your location to rescue workers.

gps iphone sample screenshot

3. Make Your ICE (In Case of Emergency) Info Easy to Find on Your Phone

Put your emergency contact information into the address book on your cell phone under the name “ICE”, the acronym that Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) know to look for. For example: ICE-Linda

If you have a smart phone, there are apps* that put ICE information on the home screen of your phone so it’s easy to find.  There is one for iPhone called Close Call, which will work even if your phone is locked. Here is how this app works. It helps you to create a wallpaper shot using your camera roll. You could actually do this yourself by creating an image with your emergency information without using an app but the app makes it easier. When you set an image on your iPhone cameraroll as wallpaper, it is visible even when your phone is locked so – voila. This Close Call link is to the iTunes app store for iPhone apps so if you don’t have an iPhone this will not work for you. If you are looking at Close Call, you can also consider other apps in this genre – paid and free – but do check the reviews included on each app page in the store. Jared has an ICE app for the BlackBerry. Close Call and Jared are free apps. Appventive for the Android based smart phones also looks worth checking out.

close call ICE - in case of emergency - screen shots

ICE (In Case of Emergency) Smart Phone Screenshots -on iPhone - Close Call

4. Put an ICE Sticker On Your Phone

ice sticker for your cell phone - in case of emergency

Get an ICE sticker for your cell phone at – which advises us that 1,600,000 emergency room patients could not provide contact information during just one year, 2006, because they were incapacitated.

5. Download an App To Your Smart Phone For First Aid and CPR

This will give you easy reference during an emergency. “App” is defined at the end of this article.

screen shot of iPhone apps that include cpr - first aid readiness

iPhone Apps As Result of Search on "CPR" In the App Store on My iTunes - Screenshot

6. Tweet For Help

If you are in a location where you are getting limited reception for your phone, you still may be able to use Twitter. Leigh Fazzina sent out a tweet using her Blackberry Bold 9700 – documented by my Twitter pal Steve Woodruff.  You are very likely to get one of your followers to relay your call of help to the right place. Leigh tweeted: “I’ve had a serious injury and NEED help! Can someone please call Winding Trails in Farmington, CT tell them I’m stuck bike crash in woods.”

7. Text for Help

Text someone who can do something to help you. To be prepared to text easily, keep your address book up to date so that you just need to type the beginning of someone’s name. Again when you have limited phone reception, texting may work. I  recommend that you have texting enabled on your phone even you don’t plan to use it regularly. Sometimes people respond more readily to a text than a phone call.

text for help sample screenshot - iPhone

Sample Call For Help By Text From a Cell Phone (screenshot* from my iPhone)

8. Download App for Nearest Emergency Room Locator

Like much of the advice here, this is something you do NOW, you don’t want to be searching for apps* after an accident.

Thank you to CNN for running a story on this topic.

*Techie Words Used in this Article:

App: Used to refer to smart phone applications which are downloaded free or for a small fee. If you own a smart phone you should take advantage of these. iPhone apps are found in the app store on iTunes.

Screenshot: You can take a picture of your computer screen or parts of it. On the Mac there is built in program called “Grab” that lets you easily create images that can be emailed as an attachment to someone you are trying to explain what is going on on your computer. On the iPhone, you can create a screenshot of anything on your iPhone screen by holding down the middle lower button, and clicking the top right power key. I will create an article about this for you.

Further on the car photo above: My partner, Bruce Sallan, wrote about his experience in an article on gratitude. My other partner, Ray Gordon, also used a cell phone in a serious emergency earlier this year. Both Bruce and Ray are very happy to be alive.

Please be safe and be prepared!

  • Bruce Sallan

    This is such an important and valuable article that my partner Linda Sherman has written. It is a primer for all parents, families, and any single person, too, for that matter. No one wants to be stuck if there are resources that can help out and that is what modern technology can offer! Pass this on to your parents and anyone else that you think could benefit from the wisdom in this post!

    • Linda Sherman

      Good point about telling your parents Bruce. I insisted on adding texting to my Dad’s iPhone plan (I have him on my AT&T family plan). He happily uses iPhone apps but has never found any reason to use texting. I told him it was for emergencies – but I think it will be helpful to send him this article both to better explain how texting could come in handy for a rescue – and to make sure that we get all the relevant emergency apps onto his iPhone.

      I wrote about my Dad and his iPhone here shortly after he got it.

  • Dh Lewis

    I just did it.

    • Linda Sherman

      Thanks for passing this onto your daughter DH

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for this terrific article Linda. I was once in a near-fatal crash and a witness called 911 on their cell phone. This article needs to be passed onto parents to share with their children.

    • Linda Sherman

      Wow. It’s so interesting how many of us have had a significant brush with death. It just doesn’t come up in day-to-day conversation. I look forward to hearing your crash story Julie.

      As to passing this on – thank you! Parents to children, children to parents, siblings, friends. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t need to be prepared for an emergency.

  • cynthia samuels

    A lot of stuff here I didn’t know & I did have an emergency in the woods where I couldn’t get through on the phone & never thought of texting –

    • Linda Sherman

      I’m glad you know this now for your next foray into the woods Cynthia.

  • Ariana

    Great article Linda! I also find that Blackberry bbm works very well if you find yourself in low battery – so important to know for Blackberry users. They can also make sure that blackberry bbm contacts are up to date. I will pass this along!

    • Linda Sherman

      Thank you Ariana! Good point about the low battery! That can be so important in emergency situations.

    • Anonymous

      Great advice, Ariana! My accident occurred on a rural road in Nigeria, where cell phone coverage was minimal. We were fortunate enough to be conscious and were able to eek out a short phone call on one of our cell phones that was recovered from the brush alongside the wreck. However, it was hard to hear and we weren’t sure the message got through – unfortunately, a text follow-up was impossible because our battery failed soon after the call. Texting first would have been a better strategy.

  • Clara Berta

    This is great advice, I will program my cell phone next, smart to be prepared in case of an emergency. Thank you…

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  • QuinnSmith

    This is a great article. I would just like to share this safety service that my mom recommended me. This is very useful during emergency situations. Wherever you are help is within your reach. It’s a mobile application that has a panic button, by pressing the button, it simultaneously alerts and mobilizes a select group of friends and family members when a certain person is in danger, if needed if gets the emergency to the nearest emergency services dispatcher with complete information. I used this for my family to be ready during emergency situations and to be safe always, check this out

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  • Judy Beane

    Good to know that my iPhone can save my life.