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Florida has an emergency contact information system. Here’s how to sign up.

The Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles is reminding people about it as Hurricane Ian bears down.
A palm sways to the early gusts of Hurricane Ian.
A palm sways to the early gusts of Hurricane Ian. [ RICARDO RAMIREZ BUXEDA | Orlando Sentinel ]
Published Sep. 28|Updated Sep. 28

If you are in an emergency in Florida and can’t talk, there’s still a way for your family and friends to be notified quickly.

An emergency can be a car crash — or a hurricane like Ian.

The Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles department has created an emergency online registry so you can input your emergency contact information. Officials issued reminders as Ian started affecting the state this week.

Related: Wednesday live updates: Hurricane Ian coming ashore as 155 mph Category 4 storm

Once you register, law enforcement, using the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles’ system, can quickly contact the people on your list, even across state lines.

The state’s emergency contact information system was initiated by Christine Olson of Bradenton in memory of her daughter Tiffiany after Tiffiany was involved in a fatal motorcycle crash on U.S. 19 in Palmetto, less than 15 minutes from her home, in December 2005.

Related: Didn’t evacuate for Hurricane Ian? Here’s how to get help.

But with only her driver’s license as a source of information, it took over six hours before her mother was notified. By the time Olson found out what had happened early the next day, she was told her daughter’s body was already at the medical examiner’s office — and the office was closed for the night. She hadn’t had a chance to say goodbye.

“I sat on my sofa with my daughter’s belongings in my lap, and I thought, ‘What just happened?’” she told the Bradenton Herald in 2016.

Related: Power outages reported in Tampa Bay area as Hurricane Ian arrives

In 2006, Olson approached and got the support of then-Florida state Rep. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, to have the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, and law enforcement agencies, get on board with TIFF, a voluntary Emergency Contact Information program, that went into effect on Oct. 2, 2006, in Florida.

State Rep. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, sponsored and passed a bill in the 2015 session that lets employees at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles ask people signing up for a Florida license who they would like as their emergency contact.

People can register online and via the site and app Olson had created, www.ToInformFamiliesFirst.org

“The purpose and passion, everything I’m about, is to make sure what happened to me doesn’t happen again, so it doesn’t happen to you,” Olson told WFLA News Channel 8 in 2018. “One day I’ll see my daughter again, you know. And I trust in that.

How to sign up

To sign into Florida’s Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles site online, visit mydmvportal.flhsmv.gov/home/en/publicweb/ecioutside/

For To Inform Families First, visit toinformfamiliesfirst.org.

You can also register when renewing or getting a Florida driver’s license.

What is the emergency contact information site?

ECI is a secure system that only law enforcement nationwide can access in order to contact designated family or friends in response to an emergency situation, according to Florida’s Department of Motor Vehicles.

Who has access to your information?

Law enforcement agencies have access for the purpose of contacting those you have listed in the event of an emergency. As of July 1, 2022, Florida statutes 394.463 and 397.6772 say “a receiving facility, hospital, or licensed detoxification or addictions receiving facility has access to your emergency contact information for the sole purpose of notifying those you have listed of your whereabouts,” according to Florida’s Department of Motor Vehicles.

Will my information be used for any other purpose?

The information provided on these emergency contact forms is only used to notify the designated contacts in the event of an emergency.

• • •

2022 Tampa Bay Times Hurricane Guide

ROAD CLOSURES: What to know about bridges, roads as Hurricane Ian approaches.

HOW TO TALK TO KIDS ABOUT THE HURRICANE: A school mental health expert says to let them know what’s happening, keep a routine and stay calm.

WHAT TO EXPECT IN A SHELTER: What to bring — and not bring — plus information on pets, keeping it civil and more.

WHAT TO DO IF HURRICANE DAMAGES YOUR HOME: Stay calm, then call your insurance company.

SAFEGUARD YOUR HOME: Storms and property damage go hand in hand. Here’s how to prepare.

IT'S STORM SEASON: Get ready and stay informed at tampabay.com/hurricane.

RISING THREAT: Tampa Bay will flood. Here's how to get ready.

DOUBLE-CHECK: Checklists for building all kinds of hurricane kits

PHONE IT IN: Use your smartphone to protect your data, documents and photos.

SELF-CARE: Protect your mental health during a hurricane.

• • •

Rising Threat: A special report on flood risk and climate change

PART 1: The Tampa Bay Times partnered with the National Hurricane Center for a revealing look at future storms.

PART 2: Even weak hurricanes can cause huge storm surges. Experts say people don't understand the risk.

PART 3: Tampa Bay has huge flood risk. What should we do about it?

INTERACTIVE MAP: Search your Tampa Bay neighborhood to see the hurricane flood risk.

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