CFRS, along with a number of other emergency services, including Cambridgeshire Constabulary and Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service, have been using what3words to help pinpoint those in need.
The unique location app what3words has divided the globe into 3m x 3m squares and given each one a unique three word address. The app is free to download for both iOS and Android, or by browser, and works offline – making it ideal for use in areas with an unreliable data connection.
Emergencies can happen anywhere, from a road collision in the middle of the countryside, to someone in trouble in a river, to an incident outside a shopping centre, which could have a number of different entrances. In these situations, identifying precisely where help is needed is critical – and this can be near impossible if you are in an area with no address or if that address isn’t good enough to describe exactly where you are. Even in a well-addressed town or city, if a caller is in distress they may not be familiar with their surroundings, or able to share a location with accuracy – for example, the description ‘near Cambridge’ will not help emergency services to get to the right place.
Now, in an emergency where a location is difficult to describe or there are no obvious landmarks nearby, callers are able to give their three word address from the what3words app. For those who don’t already use the app, CFRS emergency call handlers can also send a text message that contains a link to the what3words browser map site, where they can see their location and read the corresponding three word address. In either instance, these three words can then be used by the control room to identify the precise location and direct fire crews to exactly where help is required.
Station Commander (Control) Clare Smith said, “Our emergency call handlers are now able to respond to calls where a three word address is used. The new way of identifying precise locations complements the systems we already have in place, and can potentially save time when mobilising crews to incidents, where every second counts. What3words is a great app and is definitely worth having on your devices, should you ever need it in an emergency.”
Chris Sheldrick, co-founder and CEO of what3words, added, “Being in need of urgent help and not being able to easily describe where you are can be very distressing for the person involved and a really difficult situation for emergency services.
“Today people nearly always have their phone on them. We need to use the tools at our disposal to improve public services and potentially save lives. Just as you may have your In Case of Emergency contacts set up on your phone, we encourage everyone to download the app to make sure they are ready to quickly share accurate location information, should the worst happen.
“It’s free, it’s simple to use, and one day it might make sure you get the help you need, when you need it. We are continuing to work with emergency services across the country to get what3words enabled in their control rooms and to encourage the public to understand how to find and share their three word address so that they can be found quickly when they need it most.”