Recent research by a leading mobile communications company has shown that more than 75 per cent of people carry no details of who should be contacted if they are in a serious accident. While one lies on the road bleeding to death, for instance, the police and bystanders could waste crucial time trying to figure out whom to call in your otherwise loaded cellphone address book.
An innovative e-mail campaign called ICE or In Case of Emergency offers a solution. Urging cell-users to prefix the acronym ICE before the names of people who need to be contacted, the campaign suggests creating entries such as "ICE – Dad/Husband" or "ICE – Ishaq”, so that these kith and kin can reach you well in time when an emergency strikes.
In London, where the idea was conceived by Bob Brotchie, a clinical team leader with the East Anglian Ambulance service, the country has put in place a directory of volunteers who act as each others ICE pals. Already many cities in South Africa, Canada, Israel, Germany, and the US have successfully embraced the campaign.
In India, where more than 30 per cent trauma patients die before reaching a hospital, the campaign remains a faceless but promising endeavour with blogs buzzing about it and thousands of chain-mails doing the rounds every second. In fact, the increasing popularity of the idea can be attributed to the tragic fact that on an average 24 accidents take place per 10,000 vehicles every day in India — as against a meagre two such accidents in the US. The WHO has already warned us that continuing lack of trauma care could push trauma from its present position as the ninth leading cause of deaths in India, to third position by 2020.
Dr BK Rao of Ganga Ram Hospital says that while the campaign is reassuring, it cannot really fill the void of emergency medical services since it is the speed of evacuation to the hospital and the treatment given in the hospital that finally decides a patients fate.
Professor Dinesh Mohan of the Transport Research and Injury Prevention Programme at IIT Delhi agrees that such campaigns can make a difference, but fears that the main stumbling block remains the Medico-Legal Case (MLC) information that needs to be filled in by the police at the hospital. He argues that until this practice is not done away with, people would continue dying not just on our roads but also in hospital corridors.