“We are encouraging you to download this free app, to help us find you in an emergency”.
This week, Lancashire Police are taking part in #KnowExactlyWhere week with emergency services, local authorities and organisations around the UK to raise awareness about the free what3words app, and how it can be used to save precious time, resources and lives in an emergency.
what3words has divided the world into a grid of 3m x 3m squares. It has given each square a unique combination of three words – a what3words address.
///tortoises.swarm.announce, for example, will take you to a precise location on Ben Nevis where in February 2020 a group of hikers were rescued. The app is free to download for both iOS and Android and works entirely offline, making it ideal for use in areas of the UK with an unreliable data connection. what3words can also be used via the online map at what3words.com. The technology is available in over 40 languages, including Welsh, and can be used anywhere in the world.
‘Where’s the emergency?’ is one of the first questions you are asked when calling 999. But saying exactly where you are can be challenging. Emergencies can happen anywhere, from a remote beach in Scotland, to the side of the M1, to the middle of Hyde Park. Services often can’t detect where you are automatically and dropped pins are difficult to explain over the phone. Landmark-based descriptions are prone to errors and GPS coordinates are long and difficult to communicate. At best, this is a frustrating drain on resources. At worst, it can mean the difference between life and death.
“A 999 call could be one of the worst times of your life. Having to provide additional directions when you’re under immense stress and the clock is ticking is something that we want everyone to avoid. You never know when an emergency might happen, but with what3words, you’ll always be able to say exactly where help is needed, quickly and easily.” Chris Sheldrick, co-founder and CEO of what3words adds, “We’re extremely proud and humbled to see what3words being used successfully in control rooms up and down the country, and every what3words rescue that we hear about touches our team personally”.
A group of hiking friends wrote “We were lost in a field and had no idea where we were. It was absolutely horrendous. I was joking about it and trying to laugh because I knew if I didn’t laugh I would cry”. So they dialled 999 and as soon as they got through to emergency services, the call handler told them to download an app called what3words.
They had never heard of it. But within a minute of the app being downloaded, the police said they had the exact location of the stranded hikers and a rescue team was on its way to get them. The County Durham police department later tweeted that the group was safely found.