3 words to keep skiers safe with Patronus

“Where is the emergency?”

This is one of the key questions that a dispatcher asks when responding to an emergency call. As every second counts when deploying a response, the simple and easy communication of the location of an emergency is critical.

Relying on people in a high stress situation to look around for a street sign, or to describe where they are in an area not covered by conventional addressing is fraught with error. In the US, 911 systems are based on being called by landlines rather than smartphones. This is problematic when automatically trying to work out the location of a call to deploy the people who can get there the fastest.  If they don’t have a location, they can’t respond.

It can take up to 6 minutes to get a very rough location based on cell tower signals – but in the US 70% of 911 calls are from mobile and the average 911 call time is less than 2 minutes.  Responses are slower because the current standards don’t immediately provide a caller’s location.

Patronus is an app that uses GPS positioning to help people feel safer on the go. It lets friends and family follow a user’s trips, and in the case of emergency, connects them to the fastest help at their location. It will immediately provide the caller’s location to any dispatcher in its network.

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Patronus routes calls to 911 across the whole of the US. The service also includes responders not in the 911 network – such as campus police and ski patrol at resorts.  They serve over 300 college campuses, as well as corporate campuses and ski resorts. The call and location can therefore be intelligently routed to the most appropriate and closest responder.

On a Patronus call, the caller’s street address and GPS coordinates appear over the dialer to read off to the responder. However, street addresses don’t cover everywhere and while GPS coordinates are accurate they are prone to error when transcribing or communicating them. Mixing up two numbers or misreading or mishearing one can mean the responder is sent to the wrong place.

To solve this, Patronus have integrated what3words into their service.

what3words is a global grid of 3mx3m squares where each square has been pre-allocated a fixed and unique 3 word address; calmed.fluffed.structured, for example, is just up from the intersection of the Cradle & Last Resort runs at Homewood Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe.


Words are more accurate, more memorable, easier to communicate and less prone to errors than any other system. Patronus have utilised the what3words API to add 3 word addresses to their service. In an emergency, faster and error-free communication of location means a faster, better response.

The Patronus & what3words solution is currently being tested at Homewood ski resort in Lake Tahoe. There, when someone calls for help through Patronus it goes directly to the ski patrol.

The location is immediately captured and given as a 3 word address to the dispatcher, over audio before the call is connected: “Patronus caller at word.word.word”. They are then connected live to the person in trouble.

If a response is needed, the ski patrol responders are given the 3 word address of the incident and can navigate there using the what3words app. This solves a big problem; ski areas don’t have specific addresses and it’s hard to describe which part of a run you may be on.


Learn more about using what3words for Emergency Services

Use Patronus

Patronus is an app that uses GPS positioning to help people feel safer on the go. It lets friends and family follow a user’s trips, and in the case of emergency, connects them to the fastest help at their location. Now with what3words integrated, it will immediately provide the caller’s 3 word address to any dispatcher in its network.

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