#KnowExactlyWhere in an emergency with what3words

Published on: Thursday, 30th July 2020

Derbyshire Fire & Rescue Service have taken part in an initiative working with emergency services, local authorities and organisations around the uK to raise awareness about the 'what3words' app, and how it can be used to save precious time, resources and lives in an emergency.  #KnowExactlyWhere week began on Monday 27th July.

What3words has divided the world into a grid of 3m x 3m squares.  It has given each square a unique combination of three words - a what3words address. ///tortoises.swarm.announce, for example, will take you to a precise location on Ben Nevis where in February 2020 a group of hikers were rescued.  The app is free to download for both iOS and Android and works entirely offline – making it ideal for use in areas of the UK with an unreliable data connection.  what3words can also be used via the online map at what3words.com.  The technology is available in over 40 languages, including Welsh, and can be used anywhere in the world. 

‘Where’s the emergency?’ is one of the first questions you are asked when calling 999.  But saying exactly where you are can be challenging. Emergencies can happen anywhere, from a remote beach in Scotland, to the side of the M1, to the middle of Hyde Park.  Services often can’t detect where you are automatically and dropped pins are difficult to explain over the phone.  Landmark-based descriptions are prone to errors and GPS coordinates are long and difficult to communicate.  At best, this is a frustrating drain on resources.  At worst, it can mean the difference between life and death.

Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service has been using what3words since 2018.  It has been used a number of times to help us to ensure our resources are sent exactly where help is needed, fast.  Notable incidents include locating members of the public for incidents with no actual address.  For example in the Peak District, along waterways etc.

Station Manager for Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire Fire Control, Carly Pointon, said: "We have had the facility to use what3words for some time now.  It is a quick and efficient way to identify where a caller is reporting an incident from if they do not have an addressable location.  We do recommend you download the app to your phone so that you have quick access to the information if needed but we can also send you a link when you are calling us so that we can quickly locate you."

 “A 999 call could be one of the worst times of your life.  Having to provide additional directions when you’re under immense stress and the clock is ticking is something that we want everyone to avoid.  You never know when an emergency might happen, but with what3words, you’ll always be able to say exactly where help is needed - quickly and easily.”  Chris Sheldrick, co-founder and CEO of what3words added, “We’re extremely proud and humbled to see what3words being used successfully in control rooms up and down the country, and every what3words rescue that we hear about touches our team personally.”

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