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Tuesday, 7 July 2020 - 9:44am

Notts Police roll out ‘What3Words’ location app that could save your life

"In these moments, emergency services are forced to waste precious time and resources just trying to locate the person in need of help."


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Nottinghamshire Police is rolling out what3words location technology in a revolutionary move to improve response times.

The App what3words has divided the world into a grid of 3m x 3m squares and given each square a unique 3-word address.

Staff within the force’s Control Room are now using the system to respond to incidents more effectively.

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After successful piloting, the force is rolling out what3words to respond to incidents more effectively. Using 3 word addresses gives callers a simple way to describe precisely where help is needed and allow these forces to get resources straight to the scene.

what3words has divided the globe into 3m x 3m squares and given each one a unique 3 word address.

///slate.season.metals, for example, will take you to a precise spot next to the Council House in Nottingham’s city centre.

The app is free to download for both iOS and Android, or by browser, and works offline – making it ideal for use in areas with an unreliable data connection. The 3 word address format is also consistent anywhere in the world, and available in 36 languages.

Emergencies can happen anywhere, from a road collision in the middle of the Nottinghamshire countryside to an incident outside one of the gates at Trent Bridge.

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In an emergency situation, identifying precisely where help is needed is critical – and this can be near impossible if you are in an area with no address or if that address isn’t good enough to describe exactly where you are.

These three words can then be used by the control room to identify the precise location and direct resource to exactly where it is required.

Prior to using what3words, significant resources may have to be dispatched – such as a helicopter fly-over or multiple units being allocated to search a rough area – in order to locate the incident.

The solution can be particularly effective for emergencies in rural locations like farms, fields or wooded areas where it can be complex, imprecise and difficult to communicate location without any addresses or points of reference nearby. And even in a well-addressed town or city, the person in distress may not be familiar with their surroundings, or able to share a location with accuracy.

Superintendent Paul Burrows, from Nottinghamshire Police’s Contact Management department, said: “If you didn’t know where you were you might turn to your phone to try and locate yourself via a pin on a map – but imagine trying to describe your pin to someone over a 999 call.

“In these moments, emergency services are forced to waste precious time and resources just trying to locate the person in need of help. At best, this can be frustrating, and at worst waste crucial minutes that are the difference between life and death.

“Now, in an emergency where a location is difficult to describe, callers are able to give their 3 word address from the what3words app.”

“We are moving away from the old style questioning – ‘Where have you come from?’, ‘Where are you going?’, ‘What can you see?’

“These questions take time and aren’t always that accurate. Asking for a 3 word address has meant we have saved valuable time locating incidents.

“The Control Room staff that have used what3words for an emergency call, have said how easy it is, and they were able to find the location a lot quicker than they previously would have.”

Chris Sheldrick, co-founder and CEO of what3words, added: “Being in need of urgent help and not being able to easily describe where you are can be very distressing for the person involved and a really difficult situation for emergency services. Today people nearly always have their phone on them.

“We need to use the tools at our disposal to improve public services and potentially save lives. Just as you may have your In Case of Emergency contacts set up on your phone, we encourage everyone to download the app to make sure they are ready to quickly share accurate location information, should the worst happen.

“It’s free, it’s simple to use, and one day it might make sure you get the help you need, when you need it.

“We are continuing to work with emergency services across the country to get what3words enabled in their control rooms and to encourage the public to understand how to find and share their 3 word address so that they can be found quickly when they need it most.

“It’s been incredible to see UK police forces embrace technology to respond effectively and quickly to people in need.”

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