Two of my biggest fears when I travel are that I’ll either a) get sick, or b) lose my wallet. I can’t do much about warding off illness or a medical emergency, but there are some simple steps -putting some information in your cell phone – that anyone can take to minimize the impact of losing a wallet on the road. Add to that a few critical phone numbers that you can put in your address book, and your cell phone can serve as an effective tool in emergencies and other more mundane situations – on the road or at home.
Take 10-15 minutes today – right now, if possible - to put several key phone numbers and pieces of information in your cell phone which will be invaluable in emergencies or just plain handy on a day to day basis.
1. ICE or In Case of Emergency address book listing. Emergency personnel are trained to check cell phones for emergency contact information. If you were incapacitated in an accident, could someone quickly find your emergency contacts? Take a minute or two and create a listing like the one below – note that I put this listing, and only this listing, in CAPITAL letters to help it stand out in my address book:
When this listing is clicked on, whoever views it will see my wife’s first name (she’s identified as my wife) along with our home phone number and her cell number. In the event that we were both in an accident, I’ve also listed our older son’s first name and his cell number. Finally, I’ve added a NOTE at the bottom, indicating that my wife is allergic to penicillin. (I also added my blood type.) Having this type of information readily available to emergency personnel could save your life.
This all may seem morbid, but you never know when the worst might happen. In a similar vein, I’ve added a Word document to the Downloads page (see page link at the top of this page) that has a credit-card-sized emergency contact “card” that you can print out, fill out and put in your wallet.
2. Credit Card & Driver’s License Info. On a slightly more positive note, let’s imagine that you are traveling domestically and you lose your wallet, including your driver’s license and credit cards. As I’ve written here before, it’s easy to utilize your cell phone to store this information.
For my license, I took a macro photograph of it and sent an email with the photo attached to myself. (I use Gmail, so your mileage may vary as far as the following is concerned.) I then labeled that email with one of my Gmail labels (think of them as folders) and archived it. It’s easy to retrieve with my BlackBerry, and the photo is quite legible on my BB’s screen. I’m pretty sure it’d work in a pinch…
By the way, you do NOT need a photo ID to board a plane in the U.S. If you lose your wallet, get to the airport plenty early and be prepared for a security interview. See this post from Tim Ferriss regarding this issue.
As for credit card info, there are a couple of routes you can follow. First, you can photocopy the front and back sides of your cards and carry a copy in your briefcase or daily bag. (Of course if you lose your bag, someone’s got your cc info.)
A better approach: there are two ways of carrying this info in your cell phone. The first is to email it to yourself as described above and archive the email. (Encrypt the email if you prefer.) The second is to create a phony address book listing and store the info – credit card number, CCV, expiration date, and 800 # for the issuing bank – in that listing. If you carry a Home Depot credit card for instance, you could create a listing for “Harry Davenport” or the like, and store the info in that listing.
An aside – what happens if you lose your cell phone? Call your cell provider and have them halt service. No big deal.
3. Health insurance information. Create an address book listing for your health insurance provider and put your ID#, Group Number, 800# for the company, etc., in that listing. If you suddenly face an emergency medical situation with a family member, you won’t have to scramble to try to locate the info.
4. Insurance Policy Information. Create a listing or listings for your key insurance providers – home, auto, umbrella liability, etc. Include their contact number and your policy numbers. If they have a unique number to use in case of an auto accident, include that as well.
5. Your primary physician’s contact info. His/her name and contact info. If you’re on the road and get sick, your physician MAY be willing to call a prescription into a pharmacy near you.
6. Google – put Google and the number 466453 in your address book. If you want to check flight status, enter the 2 character airline code plus flight number. You’ll receive flight status within 15 seconds or so.
You can access an extraordinary range of information via this service. Want to check the weather in another town? SMS “weather Chicago” to Google to see what’s happening in the windy city. Want to see what movies are playing at the local theater? SMS “movies” and your zip code, and you’ll have them in a flash. For a listing and free demo of all the capabilities Google SMS offers, click on this link. Standard text fees apply, of course.
7. International Travelers: store the numbers for the U.S. Consulates in the countries you’ll be visiting. If you lose your wallet or passport while traveling abroad, things will be a bit more complicated. Store the phone numbers of the U.S. Consulates before you leave home. The Department of State’s Overseas Citizens Service can be reached at 1-317-472-2328 from outside the U.S. If you are in the U.S. and are trying to help a citizen who is traveling abroad, call 1-999-407-4747 for assistance.
There are other numbers you might also consider including in your address book – Poison Control, 911, and the like – but the numbers/info listed above are for me the essential ones.
I hope this post has been of value to you, and if you have ideas for other numbers or info you carry with you each day which you feel are indispensable, please comment!
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