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In Wake Of Hurricane Matthew, State Officials Urge Use of ECI

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Sure you can use Facebook to mark yourself "safe" if there's some sort of natural disaster. But what if you're involved in an emergency situation and for some reason you can't communicate?

It's been ten years since Florida's Emergency Contact information - or ECI - started. It's a state-supported system that allows holders of a valid Florida driver license or state identification card to list emergency contact information via the secure Florida Department of Highway Safety website. Once you're part of the system, that information is available to law enforcement officers across the United States to contact your family or friends if you're ever unable to communicate.

More than 11 million Floridians take part in this system, but not everyone is aware of it.

Florida Highway Patrol Sgt. Steve Gaskins says it's easy to use, and the information is only used to notify next of kin---not for investigative purposes, and it can give family members peace of mind.

"Cause there's been several occasions in which it's taken days or weeks, it's taken that much time to try to track down family members and let them know, 'Hey, a loved one's been involved in a crash,'"Gaskins said.

And while you may think that having that "ICE---in case of emergency" number listed in your phone contacts is sufficient, Gaskins cautions it doesn't always work.

"The problem with the other options, like the 'ICE' program on your phone, for example, is that if you're involved in a serious crash-- and the phone may be ejected from the car, it may be destroyed in the crash, you may have a password lock on your phone and if that's the case, I can't access that information on your phone as a law enforcement officer," Gaskins said.

The "ECI system" came about after a young woman named Tiffiany Olson perished after a car crash in Manatee County in 2005. It took more than six hours for her mother, Christine Olson, to hear the awful news. But that family tragedy---and the fact she wasn't able to say goodbye, inspired Christine Olson to carve out a way to make notifying families quicker and easier. She worked with State Sen. Bill Galvano, who was a state representative at the time, to create the emergency contact information, "ECI system," which was implemented in Florida in 2006. 

You can link to the emergency contact information (ECI) system from The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles here: