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Emergency responders encourage use of emergency location finding app

Mobile view of what3words app, which Kingston’s emergency responders are encouraging residents to download for use in case of emergency. Photo via what3words.

Local first responders are urging residents to download an app that could be essential in emergency situations where an exact location is unknown.

Kingston Fire and Rescue (KFR), Kingston Central Ambulance Communications Centre, and Kingston Police are encouraging Kingston residents to use the what3words app, a free and “potentially life-saving smartphone application that helps emergency responders quickly find you when you aren’t sure where you are.” The app, developed by a UK-based company, has assigned a unique three-word combination to every 3m x 3m square on the planet. Kingston is the first community in Canada where all three emergency services have worked together to introduce the application to residents.

The local emergency services said that, in a situation such as a car accident or being lost on a trail and in need to immediate help without knowing where you are, the what3words app could be the “three words that could save your life.”

“We live in a beautiful region, with a lot of dirt roads and wild spaces to explore. But in these areas, civic addresses can be difficult to find and directions can be challenging to give,” said Kim Smith, Supervisor of KFR’s Communications Division. KFR’s Communications Division dispatches fire and rescue calls, not only for the City of Kingston, but for nine neighbouring communities, as well.

“In an emergency, when a caller is distressed and not sure about location, every second counts. what3words provides us with the location information needed to get help to you as quickly as possible,” Smith said.

Smith explained that residents can tell emergency services dispatchers exactly where they are by opening the app and reading the three words corresponding to their location. Location services on the user’s phone must be enabled so that the app can locate the smartphone user, but the app works offline, too. The app does not track a user’s location unless it is open, and it does not save previously visited places, according to local emergency responders.

On top of KFR’s Communications Division, the app also being adopted by Kingston Police and Kingston Central Ambulance Communications Centre, a services of Kingston Health Sciences Centre, which dispatches ambulances for 29 ambulance bases across 48 municipalities in our region.

“We’re the first ambulance dispatch service in Canada to use the app,” said Mark Halladay, Director of the Kingston Central Ambulance Communication Centre. “It will save time and lives because it helps us to collect critical information that much faster from anyone calling 911 and struggling with their location. Then we can be absolutely specific about where we’re sending paramedics. We encourage everyone to download the application. You never know when you might need it.”

For Kingston Police, the application’s services will be used as needed when dispatching calls.

“Our priority is serving and protecting our community,” said Kingston Police Deputy Chief Chris Scott. “To do this effectively, we work with other emergency services and leverage whatever tools come along that we believe, at the end of the day, will benefit our community.”

The app’s developers say there are a number of uses for the app, from planning group activities like cycling or bird watching, to being able to share exact locations for interesting destinations or attractions with friends and followers online when travelling. The developers expressed excitement over adding Kingston to the handful of Canadian communities embracing the use of their technology.

“what3words is a technology that can benefit any community – but especially those that live an active outdoor lifestyle like in Kingston,” said Chris Sheldrick, CEO and Co-founder of what3words.

For more information on what3words, click here. To download the what3words on your smartphone, click here.

The following is information on what3words provided by local emergency responders:

Co-founded in London in 2013, what3words is the simplest way to talk about location. The system covers the entire world, never needs updating, and works offline. A what3words address is a human-friendly way to share very precise locations with other people, or to input them into platforms and machines such as ride-hailing apps or e-commerce checkouts. It is optimised for voice input and contains built-in error prevention to immediately identify and correct input mistakes.

The free what3words app, available for iOS and Android, and the online map enable people to find, share and navigate to what3words addresses in over 45 languages to date. Millions of what3words addresses are in use around the world, with thousands of businesses using them to save money, be more efficient and provide a better customer experience. what3words is integrated into apps, platforms and websites, with just a few lines of code. Products are available for free or for a nominal fee for qualifying NGOs. Its partners include Mercedes-Benz, Triumph Motorcycles, Premier Inn and The AA.

what3words has a team of over 100 people, across offices in London UK, San-Francisco USA, Johannesburg ZA and Ulaanbaatar Mongolia. The company has raised over £50 million in capital from investors such as Intel, Aramex, Deutsche Bahn, SAIC and the Sony Investment Fund.

Find your what3words addresshere.

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One thought on “Emergency responders encourage use of emergency location finding app

  • October 27, 2020 at 9:45 pm
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    OK, I’ve often thought about how emergency responders might find me on the K&P Trail but I really wonder if this app improves the situation. The words for my current location are not exactly regular dialogue and I think would be rather hard for 911 operators to understand. I think a button to send your Lat/Long coordinates would be a much better approach.

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