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Making Sure First Responders Have Access To Your Emergency Information

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
Jason Redmond
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

More and more it seems we depend on our smart phones to keep in touch with others and even to pay for our purchases and receive information.

Most of us lock access to our phones with a pass code. It keeps our friends from posting silly things on our social media. It also keeps others from accessing information we’d rather they not have. However, what happens when we do want people to have access to some of that information, possibly in an emergency?

Michelle Peters remembers the day her son was in a skateboard accident. He suffered a severe head trauma and was airlifted to Lawnwood Regional Medical Center where he was put into trauma ICU. 

“The nurses were trying to get in contact with me, but they couldn’t unlock his phone,” she said. “He had the iPhone where you had to trace a pattern on the touch screen, so there were no numbers associated with unlocking the phone. Because he was a head trauma (patient) and he was in and out of consciousness there was no way for him to tell them what that pattern was.”

Friends were able to supply her son’s name to first responders but not his past medical history which included childhood epilepsy. Peters’ son was in the hospital for an hour and a half before someone could contact her.

How do we make some of our information available? St. Lucie County Fire District Chief Buddy Emerson says there’s an app for that.

“There are apps that you can place on your smart phone that will give that critical medical information,” He said. “Medication, allergies, specific things you need first responders to know. Points of contact. Who’s your next of kin? Who can make decisions for you when you’re not able to? That information helps us tremendously in treating a patient appropriately.”

It turns out many newer iPhones have a built-in option in the health app available from the lock screen. For android phones there are apps available in the Google Play Store. Emerson says they don’t recommend one over the other.

If you live in St. Lucie, Palm Beach or Broward Counties you also have the option of the yellow dot program. Brian Blizzard, Chief Deputy of the St. Lucie Fire District, says it’s as simple as putting a small vinyl dot in the driver’s side rear window of your car.

“It’s highly visible from a distance. Even if the vehicle has been in a bad accident, that dot actually sticks out and we see it from very far away,” Blizzard explains.

What it means is that there is a yellow envelope in the glove compartment of your car with your emergency medical information.

“It contains very critical information about the driver’s medical history,” Blizzard continued. “Such as their physician, any medications that they’re on and something very important is any allergies to medications because we don’t want to give a person a medication they may be allergic to so that information is very critical for us to have.”

Each person in the family can have such an envelope but then a picture becomes important so first responders know they have the right information for the right person. Yellow dot kits are available at all St. Lucie County fire stations.

You also have another option for providing emergency contact information in the state of Florida.

“The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles offers a great program where you can put in up to two emergency contacts and tie it to your driver’s license. It’s only available to law enforcement and only in the case of an emergency.” Alexis Bakofsky is Deputy Communications Director with the department. She says the information can be entered on-line or at the driver’s license office for a Florida driver’s license or a state ID card.

“This’ll make sure that your friends, family, whoever you designate has peace of mind in case of emergency,” said Bakofsky. “Sometimes your officers can’t get to your phone, sometimes the battery dies or it gets destroyed. Whatever the situation is, a lot of time they’ll rely on your driver’s license, to make sure your family and friends get notified.”

To find out how to input your emergency information into your iPhone, click here.

Find out about android apps by going to the Google Play Store

Find out more about the yellow dot program by clicking here

Tie your emergency information to your Florida driver’s license or ID card by clicking here.