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Emergency information on the mobile phone: How important is the function really?


For emergencies, information and contacts can be stored on smartphones, which can also be called up without unlocking. But what role does this function play in the everyday life of rescue workers?

Enlarge image

A woman in critical condition (symbol image): Information such as emergency contacts can be stored on almost all cell phones

Photo: Getty Images / iStockphoto

As a Netzwelt editor, every now and then someone asks me to help him or her set up a new smartphone.

I then help set up a screen lock, turn off annoying key tones, and delete pre-installed but unnecessary apps.

And I've been doing something else for years: I advise people to store so-called emergency information on their smartphones.

This can be cell phone numbers of close family members or friends (“emergency contacts”), but also personal data such as your own name or information about your blood group or important illnesses, medications and allergies.

The special thing about this emergency information is that it can be called up from the lock screen, it does not require entering the pin or unlocking the phone in any other way.

Similar to how an emergency call can be made from any blocked cell phone (where the location is often also transmitted, more about this here), the function makes it possible to call the emergency contacts – if they have been stored.

To me, all of this sounded and still sounds like a feature that offers time advantages in bad situations: for example, rescue workers can find out as early as possible what medication a person is taking or who they would like to know in such a situation or who they would like to know by their side.

At the same time, the question arises as to whether the information on the mobile phone is even considered by rescuers in everyday life.

To get an answer, I contacted three organizations that are familiar with emergencies: the Johanniter-Unfall-Hilfe, the German Red Cross and the German Fire Brigade Association.

My first insight from this: None of the organizations in my circle of acquaintances advertised the feature as aggressively as I did.

The tenor was rather: There is no harm in depositing emergency information.

But you shouldn't expect much from it either.

In addition, one should be aware that the very personal information about illnesses does not necessarily end up only with paramedics or doctors.

Anyone else who gets their hands on the cell phone could also call it up.

But does the data at least help rescuers?

First of all, the mobile phone is usually irrelevant

According to information from Carsten-Michael Pix from the German Fire Brigade Association, data on mobile phones has so far "played a subordinate role" for the emergency services.

According to Pix, what is stored on the smartphone is "secondary" in the first 30 to 40 minutes after finding a person in an emergency.

Such information would have to be further validated by the emergency paramedics.

It is often unclear how up-to-date the information is.

Pix thinks the digital emergency information is more useful for the emergency rooms in hospitals or for the police.

However, the fire brigade expert qualifies: "Knowledge of the tool is crucial for everyone involved, and it certainly varies greatly."

Annkatrin Tritschoks from the German Red Cross (DRK) also reports that smartphone data is most likely to be used to take anamnesis.

If the emergency services learn from the patient or a third person that medically relevant information is accessible on the smartphone, they are usually taken into account, she says.

First-aiders are not required to actively search for data on their cell phones: they should focus on first-aid measures.

Carsten-Michael Pix also emphasizes: "If a patient cannot be contacted, the name does not play a role anyway."

Juliane Flurschütz from the Johanniter-Unfall-Hilfe confirms that the search for mobile phones in emergency situations is not a high priority.

“After a traffic accident, for example, mobile phones can be left somewhere at the scene of the accident or they have been severely damaged by the accident,” she points out.

"If several occupants of the vehicle are involved in the accident, it could be difficult to assign and the information cannot be used with certainty."

In any case, some information cannot only be found on mobile phones: a person's name, for example, is often on cards in their wallets, and some people also have blood group ID cards there.

And sometimes someone else collects data about the person as well.

In operations with people who require nursing support, Johanniter-Unfall-Hilfe tends to use the patient files of the nursing service rather than the person's cell phone, says Juliane Flurschütz.

Some people also have a so-called emergency box in the fridge at home (more on this here).

It's unclear how many people are using the feature

However, Flurschütz considers emergency contacts – in whatever form – to be important, “especially in the case of older people, children or unconscious patients”.

In emergency situations, patients are so excited that they often forget their medication or a complete list of their illnesses, she says: "Emergency contacts can quickly provide additional information about the patient."

None of the organizations gives an estimate of what percentage of Germans have emergency information stored on their cell phones.

However, the tendency of the answers is that the function is not well known and is therefore not used much.

Apple and Google are also unable to provide any figures on the use of the feature in the operating system.

So in the end I only have a vague conclusion: The chance that emergency data on the mobile phone will be taken into account by the emergency services and help is there, but apparently small.

At the same time, the data protection risk of the function is manageable, because you can decide for yourself which information is visible without a blocking code and which is not.

Nobody has to write out the names of their emergency contacts or enter information that is too private.

Carsten-Michael Pix says that he only mentioned his name in the emergency pass and his wife as a contact.

"Thus, if the worst comes to the worst, a search doesn't go completely in vain, but at the same time I don't disclose overly sensitive data."

And there is another advantage to storing an emergency contact at all: If you lose or forget your device, honest finders can at least contact the reference person mentioned there.

Source: spiegel

All tech articles on 2022-07-04

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