There are at least a dozen methods of carrying emergency information with you. In these high tech times, I would recommend carrying that information with you electronically, as well as on a piece of paper or in a medical ID bracelet. The electronic method allows for storage of more information.
In this case, I am talking about medical information, next of kin, and other information that you might want emergency responders to find. While my mother convinced me to always have clean underwear, it's probably more important to make sure you have easily-findable information on your body as well.
For those with significant medical problems, such as diabetes or heart problems, a medical ID bracelet is a great idea. Medical personnel always look for these. However, the amount of information you can include in a normal medical bracelet is limited.
In my case, I have always carried a card in my wallet with additional information, including my name, address, and information about next of kin who are authorized to make decisions about my medical care. I have always laminated the card so the information would remain clear and easy to read for at least a few years, then I replace the card with a new one every few years as the information changes. I keep it in my wallet between my driver's license and my medical ID card. Laminating kits may be found at any office supply store.
As I have become older, the important medical information has increased, and it is now difficult to squeeze everything I want to record on a wallet-sized card. The last time I updated the wallet card, I had difficulty squeezing everything onto two sides of a small card. I began to think about alternatives, such as folding a larger sheet of paper in half or into quarters, or something similar. However, laminating a folded card provides some additional challenges.
I then realized that I always have a USB jump drive in my pocket. Always. Every few years, as prices drop, I replace it with a new jump drive with higher capacity. The jump drive in my pocket at this moment has been there so long that all the labeling, including the manufacturer's name, has worn off. However, that makes no difference to its operation.
I also know that all hospitals have computers with USB connections, and even most ambulances carry laptop computers these days with the same. Even the cheapest jump drive with only a small amount of storage space can store much more information than what I can print on a wallet-sized card.
My New Plan
I created a new card for my wallet containing basic information: my name, address, Social Security Number, phone number, a list of my prescription medicines, and a sentence that says:
In case of medical emergency, please find the USB jump drive in my pocket. Open the file "In case of medical emergency please read this.txt."
I placed the same information that was on the wallet-sized card into the new text file of that name plus a lot more information. I listed names and phone numbers of all my closest relatives. I entered my allergies, my blood type, a list of medicines that I take, along with a comment that none of these medicines are critical to life. That is, I can go a few days without them, if necessary. I also added the dosage sizes of each prescription.
In addition, I entered my dietary restrictions, my recent eyeglasses prescription (I scanned that and included it both as a .jpg file and a .pdf file), and even a list of recent foreign trips I have taken, in case I picked up some rare tropical disease. I doubt if that happened, but HEY! it's theoretically possible.
If I had a full-time employer, I would have entered that information along with contact information for the company as well as direct phone numbers for my immediate manager and for the H.R. department.
I entered my insurance information, just in case the emergency personnel cannot find the insurance card in my wallet.
For a while, I debated whether or not to include my home address or Social Security Number. At first, I was concerned that the information might fall into the wrong hands if my pocket was picked or some other loss occurred. Then I realized that the same information was already on my driver's license and on my medical insurance ID card, both of which are stored in the same wallet as the laminated card. If a thief can steal my jump drive, he probably is also stealing the wallet as well. Keeping that info off the jump drive or off the wallet-sized card won't accomplish anything when the same information is already available elsewhere in the wallet!
I did omit the home addresses of my relatives, however. I only gave their first names and telephone numbers. I didn't even include their relationship to me, I simply wrote, "Call these people."
I also carry a complete list of all my ancestors, but that's for a different purpose. I doubt if medical personnel care about my backup copy of all my genealogy information. The same is true for all the other files stored on the jump drive; the only important file for emergency reasons is "In case of medical emergency please read this.txt" that is stored in the root directory.
You might want to do something similar. Perhaps you carry a jump drive with you everywhere, as I do. Many ladies carry one in their purse. I even know one person who carries a jump drive on a lanyard around her neck. Wherever your jump drive is, it must be immediately visible to emergency medical personnel and to others who have a need to see the information if you are unable to speak.
I'd suggest entering the information in ASCII text as that is "the lowest common denominator" and every computer can read it. Don't use a word processor's proprietary format. Text files stored in .txt format can be read on any Windows, Macintosh, or even Linux computer.
Windows users should use Notepad or something similar and store the information as a .txt file.
Macintosh users might want to use TextEdit, which has several file format storage options. Unfortunately, TextEdit doesn't store information in ASCII text format. I would use Rich Text Format which is readable by almost all word processors and can also be read with ASCII text editors although it will have "extra characters" embedded in the text. Still, it is readable.
Perhaps a better option for Macintosh users is to obtain one of the many available free ASCII text editors, such as TextWrangler. TextWrangler has been rated "the best free text editor available" by MacWorld. Write your text in the ASCII text editor, and store your information as a .txt file. TextWrangler can be downloaded free of charge at http://www.barebones.com/products/textwrangler/
Use a logical file name, such as "In case of medical emergency please read this.txt." Then make sure the jump drive is with you every time you leave the house: in your pocket, in your purse, on a keychain, or on a lanyard around your neck.
Any jump drive should do. Anything in the $5 to $15 range should be sufficient. However, you might want to obtain a jump drive with even more storage and use it to store many backup copies of other files that are important to you.
For security reasons, you might want to encrypt all the other files, in case the jump drive does fall into the wrong hands. However, leave the "In case of medical emergency please read this.txt" in plain text so that emergency personnel can read it.
You should not be concerned with long-term storage life of the personal information on this jump drive. You should be updating the information every few months; so, long-term storage is not an issue.
For use on a keychain or on a lanyard, you might want a jump drive that is capless or perhaps with a screw-on cap in place of the normal pop-off cap that is easily lost. Those are a bit harder to find, but an online search should produce several. You can look at Amazon.com at http://goo.gl/3RyX to see one such example or at http://goo.gl/7mAF for a different style. The one at http://goo.gl/7mAF has a clip that should work well with a keychain. Clip it onto the keychain with your house keys, and you will probably always have that with you.
For the ultimate in visibility, obtain a florescent orange jump drive, such as the one on Amazon at http://goo.gl/B6jC. I am sure that emergency personnel will see THAT one!
However, there are many others available as well. I suspect you can find many more in a quick online search, if not at your local computer store.
For the ultimate medical alert information, although at a higher price, you could purchase the Macx USB Medical ID Bracelet that contains a built-in USB jump drive. Take a look at http://goo.gl/QTtv