Summer has arrived, and the UK is already facing extreme weather from heat waves to thunderstorms, increased traffic on the roads, and more people venturing off the beaten track – whether that’s in a sprawling festival or an off-grid hiking trail. This week, to promote public safety during the warmer months, emergency services up and down the UK, and the AA, are joining together to encourage the public to download the free location app what3words.

This summer, nearly two thirds of UK adults aged 25-34 (62%) are planning to go on a trip, holiday, or to an event in a destination that they’ve never been to before,and 85% of Brits will be taking journeys by car. But 42% of UK adults are worried that if they had to call the emergency services when on a trip, they wouldn’t be able to explain exactly where they were.

‘Where’s the emergency?’ is one of the first questions you are asked when calling 999 but describing where help is needed can be challenging and stressful, particularly if you’re in an unfamiliar or unaddressed area. Call handlers and dispatch teams often can’t detect where you are automatically and can’t receive dropped pins. In fact, only 14% of UK adults would feel very confident describing exactly where they are in an unfamiliar location to emergency services or roadside assistance. And around 40% of AA customers who report their breakdown over the phone, and are not at home or work, struggle to describe their exact location.

what3words provides a simple way to communicate precise locations. It has divided the world into a grid of 3 metre squares and given each one a unique combination of three random words: a what3words address. For example, ///refreshed.enjoy.jumbled identifies a viewpoint on Llangennith Beach with views over Rhossili Bay in Wales. The app is free to download and works offline, making it an ideal tool for people who need help in areas with poor data connection such as national parks, campsites, and beaches. It is available for iOS and Android devices and is available in over 50 languages to date, including Welsh.

what3words has proved to be an invaluable addition to the emergency response toolkit as it saves time and resources in time-critical situations. As well as a what3words address, call handlers are trained to gather as much information as possible to identify where help is needed. This could include the area name, nearest road, landmarks, and more. Emergency response teams across the UK work closely with what3words to ensure that the technology is utilised effectively and accurately and to avoid any issues that may arise from human error when it comes to relaying words.

The innovative location technology is used by the AA, with recent data revealing that more than 79 AA members per day on average use what3words to communicate the precise location of breakdowns. It’s also used by over 85% of the UK’s police, ambulance and fire services. Cleveland Police used the technology to locate a lone female along the River Tees after she was attacked at knifepoint, to aid four children who were stuck in a beck, and to find a young male who had become stuck in mud.

AA Patrol Jonny Jones recalled an experience using what3words while on the roads: I was heading to a transit van that wouldn’t start and the only location info I had was ‘unnamed road, Peterborough’. Getting through to the member was difficult due to myself and the member having very poor phone signal.

Eventually, after getting a rough location, I began to head in the general area of Kings Cliffe near Peterborough. Once I’d arrived at the postcode that the member supplied me with it was obvious that the member and vehicle were nowhere to be seen. The member was an Environmental Officer carrying out work on a former WW2 RAF Air base. Due to the size of the old airfield and again signal being poor I asked the member if he had ever heard of what3words so that I can get a more accurate location, it turned out after seeing a TV advert on what3words and due to his line of work he found it would be a useful tool to use to have, however he had completely forgotten that he had it!

After spelling out the words ///pulsing.degrading.zips I was able to use what3words to find a suitable entrance to the old airfield and drive directly to the member and his broken-down vehicle. Thankfully, it was a nice quick fix! That’s just one of a few stories I’ve had when using what3words. It’s a great tool to have at the roadside!”

Helen Smith, Dispatch Team Leader at Yorkshire Ambulance Service said: “The nice weather has begun, and people are going to festivals, travelling to new areas and walking in the beautiful countryside, but accidents can occur anywhere. Being able to share a what3words address with the dispatcher will help us to pinpoint exactly where you are. I regularly need to call on mountain rescue teams, and being able to share this type of precise information will allow the specialist care to get to the patient much faster. Using what3words saves Yorkshire Ambulance Service precious time locating a patient, which can and does save lives.”

Peter Bromley, Crew Commander at Cambridgeshire Fire & Rescue Service said: “Here at Cambridgeshire Fire & Rescue Service, it’ll be another busy summer and, as unpredictable as each day is within the fire service, one thing we can certainly rely on is what3words. In the last few years since embracing this technology, Cambridgeshire Fire & Rescue Service has seen the evolution of its use, not just with the public, who it’s really pleasing to see giving us what3words locations on 999 calls, but with our crews too. We have gone from using the app simply to locate an incident, to now helping to establish multi agency rendezvous points, recommendations for best access points in dense forestry, and locations of specific points of interest for fire investigations on large incident grounds. This proves that the app is very multi faceted, and will be something that is used for years to come by all of the emergency services.

We would absolutely encourage the public to download and familiarise themselves with the benefits that what3words can bring in an emergency situation, the seconds spent passing this location, clearly and accurately, can help us get the most accurate and timely response to the situation in hand. Help us to help you this summer, download what3words.”

Edmund King, AA president said: “Downloading what3words is an easy way to prepare yourself for so many situations this summer – whether you need to find your tent in a campsite, meet up with a friend in a busy town, or your car breaks down on a road with no markers to describe your surroundings. Drivers can reduce the risk of a summer breakdown by preparing your car before travelling, including making sure you have enough fuel or electric charge, checking tyre conditions and pressure, and packing essentials like water in case there are delays.”

Around the world, emergency call centres are embracing what3words at a rapid pace, with control rooms in the UK, US, Australia, France, Germany, Belgium, Austria, Singapore, Canada, India, and South Africa all utilising the innovative technology, and urging the public to download the app. Call takers are always trained to collect as much location information as possible from callers, and what3words has proven to be useful when identifying exactly where to send help. As well as using the app for emergencies, people are using what3words every day to meet up with friends at parks and on beaches, to share great running and hiking locations, and to share sports match locations with their teams.