Calls for riders to download ‘life-saving’ location app

  • Emergency services are encouraging riders to download a “life-saving” app to help them find casualties in remote locations.

    Free location app what3words has been helping rescue services find riders and horses in need since its release last year.

    The team behind the app has today (Monday, 27 July) launched a week-long #KnowExactlyWhere campaign to raise awareness of how it can help, backed by emergency services.

    “What3words is a really useful tool for the equestrian community,” said rider Julie Springet, who works for Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service.

    “I actively promote the app as it makes me feel safer when I am out hacking.

    “There are so many important uses for it and we recommend that people save the three words to the entrance of their stables in case there is an emergency.

    “It operates in rural locations so the app is perfect for way-marking, pinpointing specific spots and sharing them with one another. Overall it makes hacking more relaxing and fun.”

    The app works by splitting the world into a grid of 3mx3m squares and giving each square a unique combination of three words — for example, tortoises.swarm.announce would take you to an exact point.

    In October 2019, it enabled an owner to give the fire service the exact location along a grass track where her part-bred Connemara had lost his footing and become stuck in a five-foot ditch.

    It is free to downloaded for iOS and Android and also works offline, is available in more than 40 languages (including Welsh) and can be used anywhere in the world.

    It was piloted with a selection of forces in 2019 and now more than 80% of the UK’s emergency services, including coastguards, are using the app.

    Data from 15 services show it has been used in more than 3,000 999 calls.

    “Having this type of technology integrated within our Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) system has changed the way we are able to deal with incidents where the location isn’t known,” said Trevor Baldwin, of Yorkshire Ambulance Service’s head of EOC service development.

    “Asking people questions about their location when they have little knowledge of an area takes time and responses aren’t always that accurate. Asking for a what3words address or sending an SMS so they can easily provide their three-word address means we can save valuable time locating incidents.

    “We have used it every day since it was introduced in August 2019. It has been particularly helpful when identifying the locations of road traffic collisions, but the biggest success story to date was when it was used to help us find a runner in cardiac arrest, who we then managed to resuscitate. Time is precious in these circumstances.

    “We are keen to spread the word about the benefits of what3words, which is now being used by all the emergency services in Yorkshire, and would encourage everyone to download the app.”

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    Chris Sheldrick, co-founder and chief executive of what3words, added every rescue involving the app “touches our team personally”.

    “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,” he said.

    “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.”

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