Smart phone app locates riders in emergencies *H&H Plus*

  • Emergency services are encouraging all riders to download the what3words free smart phone app

    A smart phone app that can save “vital time” locating an injured person after an accident is being increasingly used by riders and emergency services.

    The what3words app operates by providing three unique words for every three square metres of land around the world to identify precise locations. If a rider falls off, they simply give the operator the three words to enable emergency services to locate them.

    What3words chief marketing officer Giles Rhys Jones told H&H the free app is recognised by more than 75 of approximately 120 emergency services in the UK.


    “This year we’ve seen many cases of riders who have been injured and used what3words to receive help,” he said. “One of the first questions you get asked when you phone 999 is where is the emergency; that can be particularly challenging for riders. When every minute counts, vital time can be saved by providing the exact location, and not relying on landmarks or directions.

    “Words are easier than reading GPS coordinates, and can be passed down the line if emergency services need to coordinate a number of different services or radio to officers on the ground.”Mr Jones said the three words will never change and riders do not need a cellular or data connection for it to work.“Our system needs a GPS signal which is pretty universal,” said Mr Jones. “You can be in the middle of nowhere and be able to find the three word address. To make it as easy to use as possible and reduce the chance of mistakes, we’ve positioned similar sounding three-word addresses very far apart. We’ve also included an auto-suggest feature, which will pick up on spelling errors and suggest a nearby three-word address.”

    Rider Steph Lynch used the app after her horse fell into a ditch and had to be rescued on farmland in Newcastle on 15 October.

    “I was struggling to explain to the operator where I was because we were in the middle of about six fields,” she told H&H.

    “I remembered I had the app, gave the three words it showed and the operator knew exactly where I was and which fire brigades to send.”

    Liz O’Donoghue, the mother of a teenage rider who fell from her pony in woodland in North Yorkshire on 29 October, told H&H the app took away the need for a “middle man”.

    “As a parent, I felt helpless on the phone to the ambulance service; you tend to know the local area, but you don’t usually know the postcode of a farmer’s land or woods,” she said.

    Northumberland Fire Service is one of the emergency services that uses the app.

    A spokesman told H&H: “The app is so important — especially for riders. We recommend the app simply because it keeps you safe — you are never lost as we will always find you.”

    A spokesman for Yorkshire Ambulance Service said the service was keen to spread the word about the app, which is being used by all emergency services in Yorkshire.

    “Identifying where help is needed is critical and this can be near impossible if you are in an area with no address. The app can be effective for rural locations like farms, beaches or moorland where it can be complex to communicate location without points of reference nearby,” he said.

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