What3Words is a boon for location identification & will help rescue personnel respond with precision

Article by Valerie MacDonald/ Richard Pohle image

A new app to help pinpoint your location when calling for 911 assistance is spreading across Ontario, and now Northumberland residents can access it.

What3words is a global-wide app that quickly identifies geographically where an accident, a fire or a missing person is located so that emergency personnel can respond.

“It’s free and easy, and already working in numerous locations,” Northumberland County Deputy Fire-Co-ordinator Gene Thompson told the News Now Network.

In this area, Durham Region and Peterborough use it, he said, but it’s in southwestern and northern Ontario areas, too.

About three months ago, four women were walking in the Trent Lakes region and got separated. Two of them called 911 and using the app, emergency personnel were able to give them directions through the forested area and around beaver ponds to where emergency vehicles were waiting, Thompson said. Fortunately, no one was injured, he added.

A media release from the County states that the free what3words app can be downloaded from app stores for iOS and Android. In addition to the app, people can use the online map ahttp://map.what3words.com/

This app is particularly useful in the County’s rural community where there are a lot of isolated roads, fields, etc and in the County Forest, the release also states.

The News Now Network spoke to app creator Chris Sheldrick during a zoom call to his home in the UK.

He explained how, as a former musical band scheduler, he had difficulty getting all of the band members, travelling on their own, to concert locations on time without getting lost. Being a “computer nerd” he thought an app could fix this, and with the help of two other experienced people, it was developed.

The app is based on dividing the world up into trillions of grid locations and giving each of them three unique words to identify those locations.

People use the cell phone app to find those 3 unique words should they need emergency help, such as the woman whose car was filling up with water after an off-road accident. With just minutes to go, she was rescued, Sheldrick said because the app made it easy for her to be located.

Some vehicle manufacturers, like Mercedes and Mitsubishi, have become third party users of the app, he also explained with those third-party applications becoming a growing part of his business.

Sheldrick now has a team of 120 people expanding the use of the app around the world since its creation, eight years ago.

The app itself doesn’t need cell service to work – but someone who needs to call 911 does. The National Farmers Union in the UK is a strong advocate and it suggests its members pre-identify each field with the 3-word app, print and laminate the list and keep them with them as they do their farm work.

Thompson said this new app doesn’t replace the Emily Project farm sign numbering plan, but augments it.

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