Canadian emergency services roll out what3words to locate callers faster | what3words
08/07/2020

Seven 911 call centres and emergency services across Canada are rolling out what3words to respond to incidents more effectively and reduce response times. Using a what3words address gives callers a simple way to describe precisely where help is needed and allows these services to dispatch resources straight to the scene.

The City of Brandon (Manitoba Provincial 911 and Police Dispatch), Winnipeg Police Service (Manitoba), Bathurst Police Force (New Brunswick), Halifax Regional Police (Nova Scotia), Oshawa Fire Service (Ontario) North Vancouver RCMP (British Columbia), Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo – 911 Dispatch (Alberta) are rolling out what3words to respond to incidents more effectively and reduce response times. Using a what3words address gives callers a simple way to describe precisely where help is needed and allows these services to dispatch resources straight to the scene.

what3words is an easy way to communicate exact locations. Every 3 meter square in the world has been given a unique combination of three words: a what3words address. ///lashes.candlelit.earned for example, will take you to the main pier at Clear Lake Marina, Riding Mountain National Park. It can be used via the free app for both iOS and Android or via the online map at what3words.com. It’s available in over 40 languages including Canadian French. The app works offline, making it ideal for use in the rural areas of Canada that might have a poor or unreliable internet connection.

Robert Stewart, VP for the Board of Directors at the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) and the Director of Emergency Communications for the City of Brandon in Manitoba, adds, ‘Location is a problem I’ve faced all my working career. Having spent 17 years as a primary care paramedic, before moving into operations, I saw first hand the impact of delayed response times – it truly can mean the difference between life and death. When someone calls 911, one of the most crucial things we need to identify is their precise location. In an area like Manitoba and across Canada, where we have large rural and remote expanses of country, this can be a real challenge and often means we have teams searching large areas to locate those in need. what3words is a game-changer. By simply saying 3 words it means we can now locate callers with a powerful degree of accuracy, helping us dispatch the right resource to exactly where the emergency is. I encourage the public to download the what3words app, and am proud to have had the first what3words rescue in Canada. I’m excited to see the impact this has for Manitoba, and beyond.’

In an emergency, identifying precisely where help is needed is critical in order to get resources to the scene quickly, but this can be near impossible if you’re in an area with no address, no obvious landmarks or on an unnamed stretch of road. Emergency services often cannot automatically detect a caller’s precise location – despite over 50% of Canadians wrongly believing they can.* Trying to describe a pin on a map or communicate GPS coordinates on a 911 call is prone to error. In these moments, emergency services can waste precious time and resources just trying to locate the person in need of help. At best, this can be frustrating, and at worst, can waste crucial minutes that are the difference between life and death. A clear example of this is amongst cardiac arrest patients where every minute without treatment reduces their chance of survival by 10%.

With over 30% of Canadians exercising more than one a week in rural areas with no address* – the potential risk of getting injured, but without being able to communicate location, is high. With the what3words app callers can simply read out their 3 words to the call handler who can see exactly where it is. If they don’t have the app, call handlers are able to send an SMS link to the what3words online map. In either instance, the what3words address can then be used by the call centre to identify the precise location and direct resource to exactly where it is required.

This is exactly what happened to a pair of hikers exploring the rocky lakeside trails of the Whiteshell Provincial park in eastern Manitoba. With only a rough idea of the nearest town, they found themselves completely lost in the forest, unable to describe their location to the 911 call handler. The call handler used existing methods to try and locate the callers, but the results were 50km out, and even then showed an approximate area of 25km where they might be. Fortunately, the call handler sent the SMS link to the caller, whose what3words address was then passed to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, who quickly came to their rescue.

Around the world, other emergency services are embracing what3words at a rapid pace. Over 75% of UK emergency services use the technology, with the system credited with saving hundreds of lives. Services in Germany, South Africa and Australia also use the technology and urge the public to download the app. It is currently being piloted by the Los Angeles Fire Department, and by Pima County Fire Department in Arizona, and is also used effectively as a way to share location consistently between services and specialist emergency services including mountain rescue.

Chris Sheldrick, Co-founder and CEO of what3words adds, ‘It’s incredibly exciting to roll out what3words with Canadian emergency services today. Our research indicates that over 50% of the Canadian population thinks that emergency services can automatically locate the caller’s exact location on a 911 call. Although technology is getting better at doing this – it can be out by up to three kilometres. When every second counts, this inexactness at best costs resources, at worst, costs lives. By providing a what3words address, you know exactly where to get the help you need.’

As well as being potentially life-saving for people who find themselves in an emergency situation, a number of businesses – from hotels, to logistics companies – have adopted what3words addresses as an easy and helpful way to explain their location to visitors and to deliver parcels more efficiently. Mercedes-Benz was the first automotive manufacturer in the world to offer what3words via its onboard navigation system, enabling drivers to enter an exact destination with just three simple words by voice or text.

Individuals are using the what3words app to navigate the world more easily and to meet friends in places without addresses such as hiking trails, beaches or at crowded festivals. what3words addresses are being used by running clubs, climbers, sailors, and by hotels to guide guests to entrances without complicated written directions. In Canada, a number of organisations are using what3words to help their customers, including Avenza Maps, ULLR Maps, a mapping app for backcountry skiers and GoMuve, an accessible transportation app where people with all abilities can call on-demand transportation.

Watch the video to find out how what3words helps emergency service find you:

Download the what3words app to be prepared for an emergency here

*based on a OnePoll study of 1000 Canadian adults, aged 18+ in June 2020.

open chat