Keeping your iPhone safe seems like a given. I’ve told you about the hundreds of apps and sites you can use to protect your electronic gear. But what steps do you take to keep yourself safe in an emergency? In case of an accident or health emergency, would bystanders or first responders be able to use your phone to contact your family? Probably not if the screen is securely locked!

But I have an easy solution to help keep you safer if the worst happens. I hope you’ll invest just a few minutes now that could pay off big time in an emergency. Today, we are covering how to create an In Case of Emergency, or ICE, message for your iPhone’s locked home screen. And here’s a bonus: In addition to helping you in an emergency, it can also help get your phone back if it is lost or misplaced. You can do all of this in a few simple steps, and I’ll walk you through every one.

Since the idea of smartphone ICE messages has become popular, first responders and hospital emergency room staff are trained to check patients’ smartphones for emergency contact information.

It’s important for you to have at least two ICE contacts in your phone just in case. To do this, simply go to the contact pages of the first two or three people you would like to be reached if you were in an accident or medical emergency and just add ICE in front of their first name. Then first responders will know who to contact in case of emergency. Even if your iPhone is locked, emergency workers know how to access your ICE contacts using Siri.

In addition to designating the people to contact, you should add pertinent information in the notes section of your ICE contacts. Consider including medications you make take, drug allergies or chronic medical conditions that your treatment team should know.

But what if your phone ends up with a bystander, or if a healthcare worker doesn’t check your contacts? You can add an extra layer of insurance with a custom home page for your locked screen. This screen can list who to contact if your phone is found or anything you think is critical if you are unable to speak for yourself.

To create your personalized ICE page, you will need to find a background image that you want to use as the canvas. You can find free high-resolution background pictures by using the image search tool from Google or even from my freebies page where I recently added a bunch of gorgeous background pictures! Consider how “busy,” bright or dark the image is and how readable a few lines of text will be when placed over the background.

Once you select your image, you will save it to your iPhone. To do this, open the full-size image on your screen, press and hold a finger on the image for a moment. Within a few seconds you will see a pop-up menu with an option to “save image.” Select “save image” and the image will be saved in Photos.

Next, your selected image will be transferred  to a Mac or PC computer. In these instructions, I’ll assume you are using a Mac computer. For PC users, simply email the photo image and open it on your PC.  For Mac users, plug in your iPhone to your Mac. Open your downloads folder within your iPhone. Drag the image you want to use into Apple’s Pages app and select the Original Size button.

The image will automatically size itself to match the size of the page. This is OK! Next you need to import a screenshot of your current lock screen, for sizing purposes. To do this, hold the Home and Power buttons at the same time and transfer the screen shot into Pages the way you did with the first image.

PC users, simply email the locked screen shot to your PC. Simply follow these same steps in your PC’s word processing program, such as Microsoft Word.

For Mac users, drag the screen shot of your locked screen from your iPhone image folder into Pages, placing it on top of the first image. But don’t stretch the screenshot to fit the first background image. We want it to be smaller on purpose.

Next, you’ll use the built-in Pages ruler guidelines to ensure that you get the sizing just right. To enable a ruler guideline, go to View >> Show Ruler. Drag the lines to match the sections on the screenshot of your original home screen. These will be guides adding for on-screen text so your names and numbers don’t extend off the edges of your iPhone’s home screen once it’s finished.

Once you have set the correct guidelines that fit your locked screen dimensions, you may delete your locked screen screenshot. Simply select the screenshot, right-click (or “Control”) >> Delete.

Now you get to start the fun stuff – adding text to your custom home screen. To do this, click the Text button on your toolbar and drag the box to the right to adjust the size. This is where you add your In Case of Emergency information like an alternative contact number, medical information and anything else you might think is important. Make sure the text you input is visible in front of your background image.

You can adjust the size, color and style of font with the Text tab to make the text readable. Tip: Depending on whether your background image is mainly light or dark, pick a type color that is the opposite to create contrast between the type and the background photo.

When you are satisfied that all the information you want on your ICE message is easily readable, you will move the image back to your phone. Don’t worry, it’s not as hard as it sounds!

The easiest way to put your new ICE message on your home screen is to first save it as PDF. To save your finished ICE message as a PDF in Pages, go to File>> Export To >> PDF. Now we need to take it one step further to convert your fancy, and valuable, new homepage from a PDF to a photo image that can be displayed on your phone’s screen. Still on your Mac, open your recently PDF’d homepage in Preview and crop out any white edges. To Crop in Preview, Tools >> Rectangular Selection; click and drag from one corner of the area you want to show on your iPhone screen until you see a dashed line outlining your image. Then select Tools >> Crop, and everything outside the dashed lines will disappear.

Now go to File >> Export >> JPEG. You will prompted to adjust the quality of the image, select Best and save it onto your desktop. Once you have your JPEG home screen, you need to send it to yourself through iMessage, Photo Stream, email or even as a photo message on Facebook. Good news - you’re almost done! 

Once the customized ICE home screen is on your phone, go to your Settings page >> Wallpapers & Brightness >> Photos >> Camera Roll. Select your recently added home screen picture and press “Set Lock Screen,” and now you’re good to go. You can zoom in and out on the image if you want to adjust it even more by pinching and expanding your thumb and pointer finger on the screen. 

If you’ve followed these steps, then you’ve successfully set your new ICE home screen. This tool can help your phone protect you when you can’t protect yourself. Staying safe is important, so please pass this tip along and let me know what you think about your new homepage by leaving a note in the comments section below! 

There is also an App, called ICE 123 that can help you include ICE information in your contacts and home screen.