As I wrote in another article I carry a paper ID with me in my VHF radio waterproof bag. In OceanPaddler Magazine #51 I noticed a photo of a paddler with a plastic RNLI card (probably containing contact information) hanging from his PFD. This gave me the idea to create a plastic card with ID and medical information on it. After I made the first one I decided to add a QR code and after that I created a NFC version as well. Ordering printed cards is expensive so I decided to make one myself.

What do you need?
– An old plastic card (if you want to use NFC a NFC card)
– Herma labels product id 9354 (which you can use for more than just this – I will come back to that)
– Laserprinter
– Breakable lanyard (if you carry one around your neck) and a short line to connect card to PFD.

1: Mark where perforation goes 2: Easy to get to 3: QR code 4: NFC logo and don’t forget your photo

If you are good with graphic programs you probably want to make your own design, otherwise just go to and create your label. Print it and put it on your card and cut away the excess label. The Herma labels are really sticky so work carefully. Take a perforator to make a hole, put a little lanyard or line through it and here is your personal id/medical card. If you are going to use a NFC card make sure you hold it against a bright light to see the chip and antenna so you can decide where to make the perforation. There are some cards for sale that already have a small hole, but the ones I could find had very limited data storage.

Important for identification
Back to the printed information. It is important that you put your photo on it. This is most likely the only identifier a responder will act on. Add other identification information on your print like eye color, hair color, length and a distinct marker (scar, big mole) as well.

Modern phones can read QR code that contains a lot of characters (up to 4,296 alphanumeric). However this can be limited by your printer and the size your printed QR-code will be. I tested the QR with 714 characters and this seems to work fine. The idea behind this is that the same area needed for the QR code won’t hold 714 printed readable characters, so you can give more information with an QR-code than you could with printed text. So just make one with all the information you need, print it on your regular paper and test with a mobile phone.

You can create QR codes at

Above the QR code tell people to scan it for all your information. If not all your information is on the printed labels add text like: read QR code for important medical information or if you handy with graphic programs add the cross of life on your print as background.

Only use the QR code if printed information won’t fit on the card!

Make it a NFC card
There are more and more NFC (Near Field Communication) gadgets around containing personal and medical information. So hopefully this will lead to more responders looking for it. Now all the information is already on the labels so you could see this as a form of redundancy (damaged print) or an easy way for a responder to read your information digital on to a device and forwarding it to, say, a hospital.
Before I go any further a big thanks to Jan from NFC-Nederland helping me in my NFC quest.
If you look for a waterproof NFC card changes are you won’t find them. The reason for this is that the cards are not specifically manufactured to be waterproof. However they are PVC cards and both chip and antenna are enclosed in the PVC…

How to program your NFC card?
I used NFC TagWriter by NXP (android, windows) to write the info to the NFC chip. You install it on your phone (most new models support NFC regardless of Android, Windows or Apple), create your record and send it to your card. You might want to look into other apps like Trigger to see what cool things you can do with NFC.
An example of NFC use:
Let’s say you are a guide and going on a trip with non locals. You could carry an emergency card. You explain to the people to hold this one to your phone (it needs to be unlocked first however) and it will call the right person for them. It will safe precious seconds.

What card to choose?
I used a Desfire EV1 4K card. The less information you need to store on the NFC chip the cheaper the card will be. So before ordering use the NFC TagWriter app to type out the information you need on the NFC, it will tell you the exact amount of bytes needed. You probably do not need 4096 bytes. You can probably choose a cheaper card. However, the 4K chips costs 5 euro and are still cheaper than most NFC gadgets.

NFC Logo
nfcShould you decide to use a NFC card make sure you put a NFC logo on your printed sticker. Otherwise nobody will know you actually have digital information on you. Just as with the QR-code if the NFC contains information not on the printed labels make sure you mention this with the NFC logo.
There are multiple NFC logo’s roaming the internet, make sure you use the official one, you can download it at the NFC-Forum.

Carrying it
I have two cards. The first on hangs from my PFD, the second one is hanging as a necklace on me like common dog-tags. Make sure that you, just like those dog-tags, carry it under your clothes to prevent the risk of chocking. You also can use safety breakaway lanyards.

So these Herma 9354 stickers…
Ok, so after your cards you still got a lot spare Herma stickers. These are actually very useful for kayaking. Maybe you saw someone with a nice white area on their kayak used to write down some information like tidal information? You can use Herma 9354 stickers just for that. If you use a grease pencil you can easily wash the information of after your trip.
Because you can easily print on them you can put some useful information on them as well.

I also use the stickers on my drybags and containers to identify what’s actually in them. So at the hatches there are the simple markers (read this article) and after opening them someone can quickly identify the bag or container they need to open. They safe precious seconds or even minutes not having to go through all the stuff.

Just like the quick labels from this article (also in Ocean Paddler #48) I tested both ID card and the stickers for some months in both fresh and salt water and everything still sticks and still works.