Emergencies can happen anywhere, from a wildfire in a park to an incident outside one of the gates at a crowded stadium. Saying precisely where first responders are needed is crucial but can sometimes be near impossible for callers to do. Emergency situations are disorienting, and where street addresses are unreliable or don’t exist at all, describing specific places accurately can be very difficult.
Making it easy to talk about location
Founded in 2013, what3words has divided the entire globe into 3m squares and given each square a unique 3 word address. ///elderly.process.knees, for example, refers to a 3m square of sand along the Cooroong’s 194km beach, while ///tricks.dwell.tent is a specific entrance to Vivo City Mall in Singapore. The system can be integrated into products and software, and people can look up 3 word addresses on the free app or map.
what3words is used by thousands of businesses, government organisations and NGOs in over 170 countries, across a diverse range of industries including automotive, navigation, logistics, e-commerce, post, travel, drone-routing and disaster response. Mercedes-Benz was the first car company to integrate what3words into its navigation system, enabling drivers to say three words to get accurate directions to a specific 3m square. Other partners of what3words include logistics giant Aramex, South Korea’s largest consumer mapping app, Kakao Map, the UN, NATO and the postal services of nine countries to date.
Saving time, resources and lives
Last year, when a fire broke out at a campsite in the South of England, the callers had no way of describing their location, so they gave their 3 word address. Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue, the service involved in the incident, was able to use the three words to accurately locate the caller and efficiently attend the scene. Since then, the system has been rapidly rolled out by many Emergency Services in the UK, giving people a simple way to communicate the location of an incident and be found faster.
A paraglider stuck in a 40ft tree after a crash landing gave a 3 word address for his location, which was then used to coordinate response between different teams from Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Hampshire Fire and Rescue.
The system has also helped rescue a mother and daughter involved in a serious road traffic collision and helped locate a man who had fallen down a railway embankment in South Yorkshire. Without what3words, expensive resources like helicopters and search units might have been deployed to find them.
what3words is now a widespread resource for teams that tackle rural and agricultural fires in the UK. For example, Humberside Fire and Rescue Service used it to find a car fire after the caller gave the precise 3 word address for his location, and crews in Suffolk were able to put out a combine harvester fire in a field thanks to the caller giving its precise location to the call handler.
Lisa Adamson, Crew Manager for the control room at Humberside Fire and Rescue Service said: ‘The what3words service is a really useful tool in identifying someone’s location, and it’s definitely a service that we envisage using more of, particularly if someone is unsure of where they are. In an emergency situation, people don’t tend to take note of where they are due to shock and adrenaline, so the service really helps HFRS to identify a more precise location, allowing crews to potentially arrive at the scene more quickly.’
what3words users have helped save resources and time across a number of incidents. Since the app works offline, locations can be shared with or without data or wifi connection. And for services that already have access to solutions like AML and EISEC, what3words is an additional tool that is useful for validation.
what3words can also help services coordinate operations like pre-planned events and inter-agency response. This summer, Police and Air Ambulance crews communicated 3 word addresses to each other to better respond to an incident in a 900-acre forest, while Avon & Somerset Police and South Western Ambulance Service used the system at Glastonbury Festival to find people in need of assistance.
Easy integration and roll-out
When Emergency Services decide to roll out what3words in their area, the first step is to train staff and enable their control rooms to accept 3 word addresses. Once they are fully set up, local communities are encouraged to download the free what3words app so they can provide accurate locations in emergencies.
Many control room software systems currently in use and CAD providers have integrated what3words so 3 word addresses can be typed directly into the computer-aided dispatch system. In the UK, over eight providers have integrated the system, and in Australia, SDSI, a Brisbane-based organisation that provides technical support and mission-critical software to the Australasian Emergency Services, and Capita Communication and Control Solutions which delivers a unified Emergency Services Computer Aided Dispatch (ESCAD) system, are both what3words-enabled.
Services have also deployed the what3words app onto team devices so responders can use it to get to the precise 3m squares.
To encourage 3 word address usage, services are raising awareness of the app in their local communities. And in emergencies where the caller hasn’t pre-emptively downloaded the app, some control rooms sends them an SMS with a link allowing them to view the three-words for their current location.
A simple, universal solution
what3words is available in over 30 languages, meaning over 4 billion people can use it in their native tongue. Its format is consistent across the world and the system is easy to integrate into products already used by emergency services.
With more Emergency Services rolling out what3words every day, it is clear that the potential for this life-saving technology to help emergency response worldwide is huge.
More on what3words
Co-founded in London in 2013 by Chris Sheldrick, what3words is the simplest way to talk about location. The system covers the entire world, never needs updating, and works offline. A 3 word address is a human-friendly way to share very precise locations with other people, or to input them into platforms and machines such as autonomous cars or e-commerce checkouts. It is optimised for voice input and contains built-in error prevention to immediately identify and correct input mistakes. The free what3words app, available for iOS and Android, and the online map enable people to find, share and navigate to 3 word addresses in 36 languages to date. A 3 word addresses in one language can be switched instantly into any other supported language, and even looked up in one language and shared in another.
The system can be easily integrated by businesses, governments and NGOs into apps, platforms or websites with just a few lines of code, and over 1,000 businesses, government agencies and NGOs across 170 countries are using 3 word addresses in sectors including automotive, e-commerce, logistics, mobility, travel, post and emergency services to improve their customer experience and increase efficiency while reducing costs and their environmental impact.
The company’s partners include Mercedes-Benz, who recently launched the world’s first car with built-in what3words voice navigation. Mercedes-Benz, Ford and TomTom drivers can now navigate anywhere in the world by saying three words to their car. Global logistics giant Aramex has integrated what3words to optimise its last-mile operations in the Middle East, increasing efficiency by over 40%. Meanwhile, Domino’s Pizza is delivering food hotter and faster to 3 word addresses around the world, whilst travellers are navigating with ease with the help of Lonely Planet’s and Airbnb’s 3 word address listings. And numerous humanitarian partners are using the technology to help people in need: the United Nations has adopted the technology for disaster response and relief, in addition to the Philippine Red Cross.
For more information, go to www.what3words.com/emergency