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How do first responders know what to do if you are in an accident or you are unable to communicate when they arrive at your home to help you? This is one of the many critical questions that generally go unaddressed for most people. Until you have experienced a terrible incident, you don’t think to protect yourself.

We have been reviewing programs that can help you in the event of an accident or medical emergency. Here are some to programs consider:

File of Life

Imagine that you have just enough strength to call 9-1-1, but not enough to talk to first responders when they arrive. For those communities who are sponsoring File of Life, the first responders know to look for the red magnet on your freezer. What does that mean to them? All of the critical information that will help them best treat you in an emergency, is in a red packet in your freezer! They can see your current medication list, health care directives, healthcare proxy information and well as your primary care physician’s information. Can you see how valuable that would be for them? And for you?! You can also carry a File of Life in your car, in your purse, or wherever you feel you might need to help a first responder who is coming to your aid.

Yellow Dot Program

The Yellow Dot Program is a nationally-sponsored program supported by AAA. Similar to File of Life, you place the Yellow Dot on your car—either on the front or rear windshield—and complete the information sheet that is provided in the file. You can include copies of your health care directives, healthcare proxy information, medication list, etc. Just make certain that you keep things up to date! In my community, first responders are coached to look for the Yellow Dot in the event of a car accident to better assist our citizens. Remember that you don’t have to be old to have an accident, and this information can change how someone might take action in regard to your emergent situation.

Knox Box

Last but not least, my community also supports a system called Knox Box. This is a key box that has either a combination that is shared with your fire department and first responders OR that has a key carried in a locked box in the first responders’ vehicles. In talking with a first responder in my community, they suggested that in the event that you are unable to open or unlock the door for help to come it, by using the Knox Box the first responder teams can have access to your home to help you… perhaps even save your life. In my community, when you buy your Knox Box, you take it to the fire department where they put your key in the box and have you take it home and hang it on your door. Whether you choose to put it on your front or back door does not matter. Just let them know where it will be. Also, if you have the File of Life or pets that might be a concern, there is a form you can complete to alert them to any situation such as “I have a dog,” or, “I have emergency information in my freezer; look for the red envelope.”

Be prepared! Things can change in a heartbeat and can often be time-critical. First responders are not the only ones who benefit from this preparation.