ITU introduces emergency contact code

The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) introduced a new global standard to help first responders contact next-of-kin for an injured person.

The new standard calls for individuals to prefix Arabic numerals 01, 02, 03, and so on to a nominated contact in a mobile telephone directory to help first responders in any part of the world identify emergency contacts in order of priority and notify them. For example, entering in "01father" and "02wife" allows emergency workers to know to contact an injured victim's father first and wife second.

The ITU will work with nonprofit organization ICE4SAFETY to promote this new way of identifying emergency contacts in a mobile handset's directory.

'Emergency telecommunications is a top priority for ITU. This simple addition to a person's next-of-kin or nominated contact details has the potential to greatly reduce stress for overworked emergency workers around the world,' said Malcolm Johnson, director of ITU's Telecommunication Standardization Bureau.

The previous standard, "In case of Emergency" (ICE) has emerged in some English-speaking countries encouraging people to list emergency contact numbers in their mobile phone's directory in the form of "ICE father", for example, or "ICE doctor". However, this identifier precludes people who do not use or recognize Roman script from readily identifying what the acronym "ICE" represents.

The new standard, a clause to ITU-T Recommendation E.123, internationalizes the ICE concept by using Arabic numerals (0 to 9) to denote emergency contact numbers as these digits are universally recognized, making them usable by anyone regardless of language or script.

"We have seen the tremendous benefit of the ICE concept to the emergency services community," said Mark Balduzzi, developer of ICE4SAFETY. "ITU's initiative to internationalize ICE takes the concept one step further, and we wholeheartedly support this."

ICE4SAFETY is a free, nonprofit web-based resource dedicated to providing practical preparedness tools to the public. The ITU is a U.N. agency for information and communication technologies; its role spans radio communication, standardization and development. Based in Geneva, the ITU's membership includes 191 countries.

About the Author

Kathleen Hickey is a freelance writer for GCN.

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