Photo credit: What3Words

Have you heard of ‘What 3 Words‘?  You may have already downloaded the app? Emergency Service personnel around the country are raving about how important and vital this app is.  But, what exactly is it?  Using three-word addresses it gives callers a simplified method to describe exactly where assistance is required and allows emergency services to despatch their asset (fire appliance, ambulance, Coastguard, Search and Rescue team, police vehicle etc) straight to the scene of the incident.  Wasting valuable time trying to locate a person who is in urgent need of help could result in literally life or death.

What3words‘ is a British company who have divided the globe into three metres by three metre squares and given each square a unique three word address for example – ///prove.bids.deny, will take you to  Ramsgate Lifeboat Station.

The app is free to download for Apple and Android or by browser and works offline.  Hence making it ideal for use in rural or remote areas and where there is inconsistent data coverage. The three word format is also available worldwide and in twenty six different languages.

You may argue that the UK is already covered by the postcode system and street names are prominent in the majority of areas.  However, some postcodes cover a wide area and the same street name may crop up several times in one town or city.

Emergency Service call handlers can send people who ring them an SMS message that contains a link to the what3words map, where they can see their location and immediately read the corresponding three-word address. It has recently been adopted by the British Transport Police, Police Forces in Avon and Somerset, Humberside and West Yorkshire, Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Services.

What 3 Words can be effective for emergency calls in sparseley populated locations such as at the beach, coastal areas, moors or farmland where it can be very challenging to communicate a location without any address or points of reference nearby. One Fire Service call handler told us that she quite often has callers in a rural area describe their location by the colour of farm gates or the name of the farmer believing that they were speaking with the nearest fire station.  This new innovative location technology will help get help quickly to the correct location.  Another example was the app was used to locate a group of walkers who got lost in a dense wood in County Durham during August.

Chris Sheldrick, co-founder and CEO of what3words, said: “Being in need of urgent help and not being able to easily describe where you are can be very distressing for the person involved and a really difficult situation for emergency services.  “Today, people nearly always have their phone on them.  We need to use the tools at our disposal to improve public services and potentially save lives.”

The app has also been adopted by groups and individuals to map treasure hunts and meeting places.  As well as the serious nature of the app it can be good fun too. For example the front door to Downing Street is //slurs.this.shark

Save locations that you regularly walk or run

Why not find out the ‘what3words’ of nearby location’s where you go for a walk or run so you can save their locations in case you need them in the future.

National Maritime Operation Centre (NMOC) HM Coastguard

Emergencies at the coast?

Coastguard Operation Rooms across the UK can access ‘What 3 Words’ as part of a suite of tools to locate those in distress. There isn’t alwaays mobile phone coverage at sea, so carry a VHF radio or Personal Locator Beacon as well to call for help.

What3Words logo

Can you find these locations using the App?

//action.mile.paper

///token.crowned.await

///cape.admits.slim

 

Useful links

Three-unique words ‘map’ used to rescue mother and child – BBC

Download the Apple What3Words App

Download the Android What3Words App

BTP Lancashire successfully use What 3 Words App to locate vulnerable person

Acknowledgements

What3Words

National Fire Chief’s Council

West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service

HM Coastguard

Kent Search and Rescue (KSAR)