Music festivals are a fantastic celebration of music and the arts and a great experience for most, but ensuring they run smoothly is a huge task.

Festivals are often the size of small towns these days, requiring large-scale accommodation, retail, entertainment, medical care, policing, stewards and security. However with no formal addressing infrastructure, patchy mobile data coverage and few fixed landmarks, communicating precise locations is difficult as most sites are on greenfields.

Using landmarks and directing people to “ the third tree on the left of the stage if you are facing it ” is not a viable solution. Especially when responding to an emergency.


Festival Medical Services is a medical charity and a leading provider of high-quality event medical services, staffed by some 2,500 medical and support service volunteers from all across the UK. They also offer First Response Emergency Care (FREC®) responder training and their medical teams support some of Europe’s largest events.

Last year FMS trialled an innovative 3 word address system to coordinate their team of medical staff and emergency responders. Utilising the unique what3words addressing overlay, FMS were able to respond to incidents in a more timely manner identifying exact location within seconds.

what3words is the simplest way to talk about location. It has divided the world into 3m x 3m squares, each with a unique 3 word address. Now people can refer to any precise location using just three words. 3 words are far simpler and easier to use than latitude, longitude GPS coordinates or “5m past the third tree on the left as you are facing the stage….”.

A high-resolution satellite image was captured on the first morning of the festival and the grid overlay added. This image showed the exact positions of all on-site assets, access points and ‘roads’ as they will be for the duration of the event.

This image was placed on a bespoke website used at the FMS communications hub to coordinate responder teams. On the ground staff use the what3words app to specify and navigate to addresses. As mobile coverage is patchy and in high demand the system is built to work offline, and staff follow a compass pointer to the desired 3 word address.

The charity’s medical operations are run by Dave Parry, Operations Director at Festival Medical Services. “ In a medical emergency precise communication of a location is paramount. From my experience managing logistics for an ambulance service in a remote area, the quicker, more precise and less ambiguous a provided location is, the higher the chance we have of saving lives. what3words does just that .”

The system was also used by individuals and vendors at the event to reference the locations of stalls, remember where they pitched their tents and specify places to meet their lost friends.

Dave concludes. “ what3words can guide the responder to the indicated location with turn by turn instructions and provides accurate locations in areas which just don’t have fixed landmarks. This definitely helps to save li ves. Moving forward, FMS will be utilising this system at more events and the software is an example for others to follow ”.