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Your Guide to Medical Emergency Apps

by alertinstye on May 21, 2012 in Health

What are ICE apps? Here’s a hint: they won’t help you carve frozen sculptures, design your own bling or memorize the lyrics of famous white rappers from the ’90s. For lovers of frozen swans, golden medallions and throwback floor-fillers, this might come as something of a disappointment, but cheer up. These ICE (or “in case of emergency”) apps can do something much cooler. If you have a smartphone, they can save your life. Of course, the world of emergency and medical apps is a bit like the lineup at a karaoke bar – the failures far outnumber the shining stars. So to save you the time (and money) of trying out every app in the Apple Store and the Android Market, we decided to do the dirty work for you. You’re welcome.

 A Short Preamble to the ICE Apps Guide

Before you start on your magical app-exploring journey, there are a few things you should know. Don’t scroll past this part either, hot-shot, because we’re about to drop some knowledge on you, and you’re going to want to be there to catch it.

Pro Tip #1 – Don’t depend solely on your ICE apps. Look, ICE apps can do some pretty cool things, and when used properly they can help you get the aid you need in the event of a medical emergency. But should they be your only means of preparation? Definitely not. Sure, medical apps can store all of your known allergic reactions. Maybe they’ll stop EMS from using latex gloves or administering certain medications when you’re unconscious. But how can you be sure that medical professionals will check your iPhone in an emergency? You can’t.

Some nurses and paramedics will check a phone immediately, some will do it hours after you’ve been admitted and some won’t at all. This isn’t because these people are uncaring or lazy. It’s simply because they’re too busy trying to administer aid, can’t log in to your phone or don’t want to be held liable for invading your privacy. Luckily, some apps address these concerns, but it’s a good idea to have a backup plan.

Your best bet? Engraved medical identification jewelry. A medical bracelet is highly visible, and paramedics can read it without feeling that they’ve stepped out of bounds. For the best of both worlds, your medical tags can be engraved with instructions for accessing your ICE apps.

Pro Tip #2 – You already have ICE apps on your phone (sort of). Good news! You already have ICE apps on your phone, and not in a “drank too much at happy hour and went on a downloading spree while waiting for your blind date” kind of way, either. These features came with your phone, and here’s how to make use of them. First, update your contacts list. Choose three people to be your emergency contacts, and edit their info to read like this: “*ICE (name here).” Any contact name that is preceded by an asterisk will appear at the top of your contacts list, making those names and numbers much easier to find.

It might be a little annoying to feel as if you’re constantly receiving phone calls from American Gladiators, but it’s worth it. Plus, it can come in handy if you lose your phone! Assuming that being a good Samaritan is still in style, front-loading a few contacts with the ICE tag will make it easy for anyone who finds your phone to get it back in your hands quickly. And here’s another trick: you can use your free memo app to create a note with all of your medical emergency info and save it as “ICE info” on your main screen. To make your efforts even more effective, let the people who are closest to you know exactly what they have to do to access this information.

Are these tools better than ICE apps? Not so much, but they’re free and they’re already on your phone, so why not put them to work? Now that we’ve helped your phone be all it can be, it’s time to move on to the big leagues – downloadable ICE apps.

 Medical In Case of Emergency Apps

When you’re about to die of boredom while sitting in a waiting room or enduring a long car ride, apps like Draw Something and Angry Birds might seem like lifesavers. But when the threat to your life is something more serious than boredom – like severe allergic reactions or a diabetic emergency – then medical apps can come to your rescue. There are plenty to choose from, and many of them do similar things, so instead of reviewing dozens of nearly identical apps, we’ve identified the clear standouts in each category.

911 emergency app 911 Support

 In most cases, dialing 911 is easy, but when you’re experiencing a medial emergency, things don’t always go as planned. What if a stroke or a heart attack makes it difficult or impossible to unlock your phone and type the digits? What if your parent with Alzheimer’s and dementia is experiencing an emergency but can’t remember how to dial? What if the only person capable of reaching the phone is still in kindergarten?

The iPhone app 911 Support was created for situations just like this. With just two taps, it connects you to a 911 dispatcher. You can also add emergency contacts and the numbers of your local police departments. In fact, the app is so user-friendly that you can even trust a toddler to use it properly. As one user wrote in an Apple Store review,

“I found this app when I realized how complicated it would be for my 3-year-old to figure out how to call 911 from my iPhone if the need arose. This makes it so simple. Exactly what I was looking for.”

Android users, don’t despair – there’s a very similar app available at the Android market, although it doesn’t allow you to add emergency contacts or other numbers. Both apps are available for free, which means you have no excuse not to download these life-saving ICE apps.

smart-ice appSmart-ICE

 Think of this in case of emergency app as your iPhone’s answer to medical identification jewelry. Just like an engraved bracelet or necklace can help medical emergency services learn your important information, the smart-ICE app can provide critical details about your medical history and needs. And that’s not all – check out all the other features listed on the smart-ICE Apple Store page:

  •  If an emergency happens, this app allows you to connect with EMS at the touch of a button.
  •  Use the alarm feature to set off a high-pitched siren, which helps paramedics locate users more quickly and easily. GPS features can also transmit location information to EMS dispatchers – a feature that can prove a lifesaver if the user becomes confused or loses consciousness.
  • Record a voice message that plays automatically for anyone who opens the app. It’s an easy way to express your critical medical details in your own words.
  • Store insurance information that’s password-protected. You can access it when you need to, and no one else can access it without your permission.
  • Clearly labeled buttons make this app easy to navigate for medical professionals, or even for family members who don’t have smartphone experience.
  • Unlike other bare-bones apps, this one is highly customizable, allowing you to decide which badges appear on your main screen.
  • Of course we saved the best feature for last. Remember how we mentioned that  emergency medical professionals sometimes have trouble accessing ICE apps because they’re unable to unlock phones? This app solves that problem with customizable lock screen wallpapers. That means paramedics and other professionals can access your medical information without even having to unlock your phone.

A free version of smart-ICE called smart-ICE Lite is available for download, but if you’re going to go through the trouble of downloading this app, take our advice and spring for the full version. It only costs $0.99, and you’ll have access to all of the program’s features, nearly three times what you’ll find in the free version. Users give this in case of emergency app an average of 4 out of 5 stars, and many rate this as the best out of all the ICE apps available. One Apple store user review even states: “On my last doctor visit my doctor got this one to download for himself.”

There is one drawback, though: the app requires you to enter a lot of information, and that can be both time consuming and a bit frustrating. So before you download, turn on a “Law and Order” marathon. Go rent a season of “24.” Then hunker down and get ready to do some typing.

If you experience a medical emergency, these ICE apps can save your life. Should you experience a diabetic emergency, a dangerous fall or a heart attack, these apps can alert medical services and provide them with the information they need to take care of you. But are these the only types of apps that can come to your aid? Definitely not. If these two apps are Batman and Superman, get ready to meet the rest of the Justice League.

 ICE Apps for Every Occasion

Emergencies come in all shapes and sizes, from the tiny bite of a terrifying spider to the flooding caused by a major tsunami. Luckily, the world of ICE apps has evolved, and today there are applications to help you tackle emergencies of every kind. To stay safe, aware and in control, download the full arsenal and then evaluate them one by one. There’s no need to limit yourself to just one, either. For some people, ICE apps are like weather apps: you get addicted, and one live radar just isn’t enough. Here are some of the leading choices:

 red cross shelter appAmerican Red Cross – Shelter View

 When disaster strikes, it can be hard to get your bearings. If you have to vacate your home due to a flood, tornado or other natural disaster, this ICE app from the American Red Cross can point the way to the nearest Red Cross shelters. A detailed map shows you shelter locations and even tells you the current population in each center so that you won’t waste time trying to reach one that doesn’t have open beds.

Natural disasters don’t always give you the opportunity to sit down at your desk and consult Google Maps for directions, so having an on-the-go app like this one can be invaluable.

emergency radio app Emergency Radio

This in case of emergency app allows you to listen to “live police, fire, EMS, railroad, air traffic, NOAA weather, coast guard, HAM radio, and other frequencies.” Tuning in to local frequencies can help you stay informed about accidents, crimes and even natural disasters in your area.

Plus, Emergency Radio allows you to listen to radio channels all over the U.S. and Canada, which can be helpful if you have a friend or family member who’s traveling or living far away. Or, you know, if you just want to daydream that you’re Detective Stabler as you listen to NYPD chatter and sip coffee in the park while furrowing your brow. Hey, what you do with these apps is up to you. It’s surprising how interesting an emergency radio app can be. The next time you hear a police siren, simply turn it on and see what’s going on.

weather channel appThe Weather Channel Max

 By far the most widely used weather app on the market, this app from The Weather Channel can do much more than advise you on whether or not to grab an umbrella as you head out the door. Badges will alert you to approaching storms and severe weather conditions. If you live in an area plagued by tornadoes or if you simply don’t want to get caught in a storm, this app is a big help.

Weather Channel Max is a step above the free version, so if you’re an information junkie, this is the app for you. You’ll get the usual cloud-cover maps, radar and 10-day forecasts, but you’ll also get future radar, a video center and a 72-hour snowfall forecast. Remember, some of the best in case of emergency apps on the market help you to avoid the exact situations that could lead to a medical emergency. This is just one of those apps.

help me now app Help Me Now!

 This abrasively named app (and others like it) rely on GPS technology to pinpoint and share your location with your ICE contacts so that they can come to the rescue. The app can be a lifesaving tool for autistic children or adults with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Should a family member wander off and become lost or disoriented, the Help Me Now! app can make them much easier to find.

Just be careful who you share your GPS info with. Your best friend who’s a registered nurse? Good idea. Your jealous ex boyfriend with the gun collection? Bad idea.

 pocket aid appPocket First Aid and CPR

 When a medical emergency happens, there’s no better tool to have at your disposal than knowledge, and who better to equip you with the skills you need than the American Heart Association?

We chose this ICE app as the best first-aid app because, unlike the others, it provides 46 high-resolution photos and 34 helpful videos, making it quick and easy for you to learn what you need to know. Although this app isn’t meant as a substitute for complete first-aid and CPR training, what you learn from it could help you respond to an emergency. It can even help you save a life! At only $1.99, that’s definitely worth the price.

zombie survival guide app Zombie Survival Guide Scanner

 What’s that, you say? You don’t think this app is important enough to merit a mention? When you’re being chased by a horde of the hungry undead, you’ll be singing a different tune. This in case of emergency app can help you survive one of the scariest emergencies of all time – a zombie attack.

As the app’s publisher, Random House, says, “The Zombie Survival Guide Scanner iPhone app is your first line of defense in an undead world.” Random House is a trusted American publishing company, so we assume that the poor reviews were written by people who simply aren’t appetizing to zombies.

You may think this app is too silly to be useful, but how can you be sure? That’s right – you can’t. When we said you should be prepared for any situation, we really did mean any situation.

You never know when an emergency will happen. If we did, we’d call them “pre-scheduled scary times.” So if you want to stay out of harm’s way, you really have two choices. You can either turn your home into a sealed-off cell covered in bubble wrap or you can download a few apps and continue functioning as a normal and productive member of society. Go for option two. Remember, while many folks think that the ICE apps covered here are the cream of the crop, the great thing about them is this: they’re risk-free. You can download them, tinker with them and edit them, and if you don’t like your in case of emergency app, you can delete it. So have some fun exploring. You’ve always wanted a police scanner anyway, right?

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