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National week of action to help people #KnowExactlyWhere in an emergency with what3words

30 Jul 2020

Our emergency services encourage the public to download the free app, to help us find you in an emergency.

This week ourselves and Fire and Rescue Service have been taking part in #KnowExactlyWhere week with emergency services, local authorities and organisations around the UK to raise awareness about the free what3words app - and how it can be used to save precious time, resources and lives in an emergency.

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 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.

Our Chief Superintendent John Murphy said: “what3words has improved the way we respond to an emergency, work with partner agencies and adopt immediate actions at a crime scene to have the best chance of solving a crime. The use of technology to pinpoint a location to just 3m x 3m increases our efficiency in deploying resources and protecting people.

“When responding to an incident in a vast area, or on a long stretch of road, it can be difficult to obtain the exact location, meaning valuable time is spent trying to establish the accuracy. what3words means that we can identify the location of someone in need, or create meeting points for several partner agencies to pull together a joint response as quickly and accurately as possible.

“Since the beginning of the year the force has used what3words for ongoing incidents 107 times, including communicating the location of an identified crime scene in a large park to other officers, and locating an area of road blocked by a tree. However the majority of times we use the app for is for public safety incidents and helping people who are need of immediate attention. During this week of awareness we are urging the public to download the app and help us to pinpoint your location so we can assist you if you’re in need.”

Darren Cook, Head of Governance and Assets Management and Collaboration said; “At Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service we are finding that using what3words is a fantastic tool to pin point an individual’s exact location. “During critical emergencies this means that we can locate the individual quickly and provide them with the support that they need efficiently and effectively. We would encourage the public to download the what3words app because you never know when you might need it!”

Chris Sheldrick, co-founder and CEO of what3words said: “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. 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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