This week public safety teams across the US are taking part in a spring safety campaign to raise awareness of the free what3words app and how it can be utilized in an emergency. what3words provides a simple way to communicate precise locations, and the technology has been successfully used by 911 teams around the US for everything from reporting fires and rescuing pets, to locating injured hikers and lost kayakers with pinpoint accuracy.

Across the country, emergency services are bracing themselves for a busy period as people make the most of the spring weather – heading out for hikes, swims, BBQs and more. Festivals and large outdoor events have also restarted, all of which can lead to an uptick in 911 calls. In an emergency, being able to identify precisely where help is needed is critical to getting resources to the scene quickly and efficiently, but this can be challenging when callers are in remote areas, places without street addresses, on unnamed trails, or on unmarked freeways.

what3words provides a simple solution. The system has divided the world into a grid of 10ft x 10ft squares and given each square a unique combination of 3 random words: a what3words address. This means every park bench, parking space, pitch on a campsite, and remote spot on a hiking trail has its own address made up of 3 dictionary words. For example, ///sculpture.free.begun will take you to one of the best spots in Dumbo to snap a picture of the Brooklyn Bridge. The app is free to download for both iOS and Android devices, covers the entire globe, and also works offline, making it ideal for use in areas with an unreliable data connection.

what3words’ innovative location technology is being used on a daily basis by major public safety agencies across the US, including the Los Angeles Fire Department, Dallas Police and Fire Departments, New Hampshire Emergency Services and Communications, Mountain Valley Emergency Communications Center in New Jersey, Nashville Police and Emergency Communications, and Austin Police, Fire and EMS. A full list of enabled services is available here . In fact, Lieutenant Kenneth Murphy of Austin Police, Texas recently stated that the tech ‘really takes the search out of search and rescue’.

Recently, what3words has also been used in the US to:

  • Assist the Los Angeles City Fire Department with the rescues of over 170 lost and injured hikers in the region
  • Aid Captain Tony Consalo of the Special Operations Division, Indian River County Sheriff’s Office save a couple whose boat caught on fire and were sinking in alligator-infested waters
  • Support the City of Austin’s response teams to prepare and plan for major events, including 2022 Austin City Limits and 2023 South by Southwest festival
  • Provide Murfreesboro Police Department with the precise location of two lost teenagers in Tennessee who had spent over an hour after nightfall trying to get back to their vehicles
  • Assist Austin Travis County EMS rescue a hiker who had fallen off a 20ft cliff – 911 call audio here
  • Support Putnam Rescue Squad, Cookeville Tennessee with the rescue of lost trail riders in the Monterey area
  • More real life examples of the tech in action in North America can be found here

The tech is particularly useful to response teams, because emergency control centers cannot always automatically detect a caller’s precise location. Consequently, they have access to a number of different technologies and methods which help them to identify callers’ locations – what3words being one of them. While not intended as a replacement for the traditional ‘must-pack’ equipment and resources for road trips, hikes and outdoor adventures, the technology has become a well-used partner to emergency services around the world, saving dispatchers and responders time and resources in an emergency.

Giles Rhys Jones, CMO of what3words comments: “Emergencies can happen anywhere, and at any time. Having what3words downloaded provides peace of mind, knowing that you and your family will always be able to direct emergency services to exactly where help is needed. Response teams across the US work incredibly hard to keep citizens safe and it’s been humbling to hear that our tech has been helping to cut response times when it matters most.”

Emergency call centers are adopting what3words at a rapid pace, with control rooms in the UK, US, Australia, France, Germany, Belgium, France Austria, Singapore, Canada, India, and South Africa all utilizing the innovative technology, and urging the public to download the app. The technology is available in 54 languages to date, including Spanish, and can be used anywhere in the world. The system does not store or track users’ location data, and there are no advertisements on the app or map.