Streamline your emergency contacts with an emergency email address

By now you’ve heard of In Case of Emergency (ICE), the encouragement to store one or more phone numbers in your phone prefixed with ICE, so that they can be quickly identified in case of a need to contact a close friend or loved one if something should happen to you. But there are several situations in which this could be improved:

What if your contact(s) are away from their phone, on vacation, or in areas of poor reception?

What if you have a large number of people that you would like to have reached in case of emergency, such as a large family or extended family?

What if you want to respect your contact’s right to privacy until the need arises that they be contacted?

Enter the use of an emergency email address.

Email is as ubiquitous as text messaging now, and is often an easier way to communicate. Many of us have our email delivered to our cell phones or our desk computers. An emergency email address has a huge number of benefits:

  • Quickly have all of your emergency contacts notified at the same time.
  • Have your contact’s right to privacy respected until the need arises.
  • Have a central point where all of your emergency contacts can quickly reach each other (through the use of your emergency email address) to quickly exchange information.
  • Have email alerts delivered via SMS text message to cell phones which don’t have email, via an SMS gateway.
  • Have a caregiver or doctor notified who can keep up with changes in a medical condition.

Setting it up is as easy as setting up an email distribution list which includes your emergency contacts, and creating a card with that emergency contact information you can carry around with you.

Here’s a quick walkthrough for Gmail users to set it up with their existing Gmail account, using the plus sign trick:

Before you can set this up, you will need to add a list of forwarding contacts who will receive your messages. In order to add forwarding addresses in Gmail, you will need to add and validate each of them individually. You can follow the instructions below for reference.

Adding forwarding contacts

Log into your email and click the gear icon and go to Settings.

Click on Forwarding and POP/IMAP, and click Add a forwarding address:

Add and confirm your forwarding address:

You will be notified that a confirmation code has been sent to verify permission.

You will need to get the confirmation code from the recipient in order to verify the address.

Once you’ve verified at least one address, the following will appear. You want to leave forwarding disabled, as you’ll be setting up filters later to handle the actual forwarding.

Repeat with any additional forwarding addresses.

Creating the filters

Now, decide what your plus sign suffix will be. It can be anything, and since it’s based on your email address, nothing is “already taken.” For this example, we’ll say my current email address is me@gmail.com, and I’ve decided to use +ice as the suffix. So, my emergency contact email will be me+ice@gmail.com.

Then, go to Filters, scroll to the bottom and click Create a new filter.

Then, in the new filter, enter your email address and emergency suffix in the To box. Since I’m using me+ice@gmail.com, that’s what I’m putting. Don’t copy and paste, use your own. Then, click Create filter with this search.

In the next step, check the box for Forward it to and select one of your destination addresses. Since Gmail only allows you to select one forwarding destination, you will need to create a separate filter for each destination address, using the same rules. I have tested it and it does indeed work.

After creating in this case two filters, I see the following in my filters list:

At this point, you’re done and can send the address a test message if you like.

Questions, comments, or thoughts about this? Please feel free to comment below!

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