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A File of Life Can be a Lifesaver

What if someone has an allergy to a medication or a pre-existing medical condition and they experience a medical emergency? How will first responders arriving at a house learn these details and other important medical information if the resident is unconscious? That’s where a File of Life kept in a sleeve at the refrigerator comes in handy.

“The File of Life is a resource for first responders and for citizens to have if they or their family members aren’t able to pass on their medical information when first responders arrive on scene for a medical emergency,” said Cameron Smith, driver engineer for the Santa Clara Fire Department. “It makes it really easy if we show up for a call. That way, if they have a File of Life filled out already, we can get all the current information we need without burdening their family members who might have a million other things on their minds at that time.”

If someone is unconscious and unable to share information about themselves when first responders arrive to their home, a completed File of Life with personal, emergency and medical information will guide the first responders.


“The File of Life basically helps us determine what medications are safe and unsafe to give them and based on their medical history, what medical event they are having,” Smith said. “If we know someone is allergic to a medication, we won’t give it to them. When we show up and someone is unconscious, if they have their medical history portion filled out, it would give us a better idea about what is happening to them. For example, if they have a history of seizures or diabetes, it can clue us into what has happened to them and we can deliver care faster.”

Those wishing to access the two-page File of Life form can go to and click on “L.I.F.E File: Lifesaving Information for Emergencies.” Smith strongly recommends that people pick up a special magnetic sleeve to hold the File of Life on their refrigerators.  Bearing the logo of the Santa Clara Fire Department, this red sleeve can be picked up at all the Santa Clara Fire Department’s 10 fire stations when firefighters are present (fire station locations can be found here: Sleeves are also available at the Fire Administration Building, connected to Fire Station 1 at 777 Benton St., from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Monday through Friday.

DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) forms and POLST (Physician Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment) forms as well as other useful medical information can also go into the magnetic sleeve along with the File of Life.

“The usefulness of that red sleeve is that it is our go-to place to look for the File of Life,” Smith said. “When we go into someone’s house and that person is unable to talk to us, the first place we look for the File of Life is at the refrigerator. It’s hard to find the File of Life if it’s kept in someone’s drawer or in their bedroom.”


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