The Halton Regional Police has announced that it is now using the innovative location technology what3words to identify exactly where help is needed and get resources there quickly in case of an emergency.
Launched in 2013 and now used widely by emergency services, businesses, and individuals around the world, what3words is a proprietary geocode system designed to identify any location with a resolution of about three metres (9.8 feet).
Since street addresses aren’t accurate enough to specify precise locations, such as building entrances, and don’t exist for parks and many rural areas, it makes it hard to find places and prevents people from describing exactly where help is needed in an emergency. To make it easier to find such locations, what3words divided the world into three-metre squares and gave each square a unique combination of three words.
The Halton Regional Police is urging residents, especially those who enjoy the outdoors in remote or unpopulated locations, to download the app so the 9-1-1 call takers know exactly where to dispatch resources in emergency situations. The app is free to download for both iOS and Android devices.
What3words says a number of Canadian emergency services have confirmed they are using and accepting what3words addresses. These include a majority of emergency services across Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Saskatchewan, Quebec and Yukon.
According to the York Regional Police, who started using the app in February 2022, the use of the what3words app is part of the overall modernization of the 9-1-1 Communications Centre that includes redesigned training, staffing and supervision models in an effort to support members and build a framework for future growth.
Using what3words to help 9-1-1 find you
“You can use the what3words app to communicate your precise location to Halton’s 9-1-1 call centre by telling us your ‘what3words address’, a unique combination of three words that identify a three-metre by three-metre location. This is far more precise than a traditional cell phone ‘ping’ often used by emergency services,” the Halton Regional Police noted on its website.
Here’s a step-by-step explanation from what3words of how you can share your precise location using the app:
- Open the app and tap the Locate Me icon. The what3words address for your current location will be displayed at the top of the screen.
- Read out the three words to your emergency call taker. For example, if you’re at ///index.home.raft simply say: ‘My what3words address is index home raft’.
- The emergency service will use the what3words address to see exactly where you are and send help.
The what3words app works offline, which makes it ideal for areas with poor or unreliable data connections, such as the rural areas of the Halton region.
Watch what3words in action