This week, emergency services across the UK are coming together to encourage the public to download the free what3words app, as a simple way to keep friends and family safe this summer.

what3words is used by over 85% of the UK’s Police, Ambulance and Fire services, and has become a valuable and trusted tool in the emergency response toolkit.

The technology has been used in thousands of situations, from reporting fires and rescuing pets to locating callers mid-heart attack with pinpoint accuracy. Last year, Joe Mason called the ambulance from the side of the motorway while his father was having a heart attack in the car. After providing his what3words address, the ambulance arrived in a matter of minutes, saving his father from what could have been a fatal heart attack. Mikey Hutton, who was located via what3words after falling 15ft down a cliff, said ‘it’s amazing that such a simple thing saved me from almost certain death.’

People struggle to say where they are in emergencies

Over half (56%) of emergency services receive daily calls from people who don’t know exactly where they are or struggle to describe the location of an incident. This summer, 65% of Brits are planning to go on a trip, holiday or to an event in a destination that they have never been to before, and 57% agreed that they find themselves lost or losing track of directions when they are away. 1

Describing exactly where help is needed can be challenging and stressful – particularly in unfamiliar or unaddressed areas. Call handlers and dispatch teams often can’t detect where people are automatically and can’t receive dropped pins. Ordnance Survey found that three-quarters of UK adults can’t read a map 2 – making it even more difficult to explain or describe exactly where they are.

what3words makes it easy to communicate precise locations

It has divided the world into a grid of 3 metre squares, and given each square a unique combination of three random words. For example, the best viewpoint over Durdle Door in Dorset is ///laptop.processes.works

The app is free to download for both iOS and Android devices, and works offline, making it ideal for use in areas with unreliable data connection, such as beaches, national parks and campsites. what3words can also be used via the online map at what3words.com . It’s available in 51 languages to date, including Welsh, and can be used anywhere in the world.

Testimonials from emergency services

‘At Cambridgeshire Fire & Rescue Service, along with emergency services across the country and the world, we are encouraging everybody to download what3words on your mobile phone. This app is helping us to save lives, and can bring the emergency services to your location much faster than ever before, helping us to help those in need.

what3words has already helped us to locate people stuck in flood water, animals trapped in wire, bonfires out of control, forest fires as well as people on motorways, side roads and unnamed roads with car fires, medical emergencies and a whole range of other issues. This app can help us find you anywhere.’

Peter Bromley, Crew Commander, Cambridge Fire & Rescue Service.

‘what3words has proved to be an invaluable addition to our emergency response toolkit. It saves us time and resources in time critical situations. Our call handlers are trained to gather as much information as possible to identify where help is needed. This could include the area name, nearest road, landmarks, and more. The additional layer of accuracy that what3words provides saves us time when it matters most. We, like many emergency response teams across the UK, have worked closely with what3words to ensure that the technology is utilised effectively and accurately and to avoid any issues that may arise from human error when it comes to relaying words.’

Gill Pleming, Service Manager (EMS Coordination), Welsh Ambulance Service.

Survey highlights

In a recent voluntary survey of nine emergency services across the UK, what3words found that:

  • 44% of emergency services surveyed use what3words to locate callers daily, and a third use the technology on a weekly basis.
  • One service reported that they’ve used what3words almost 2000 times (1944) to locate callers so far this year.
  • 78% of emergency services agree with the statement ‘what3words saves us time’.
  • 22% of services surveyed say that what3words saves them over ten minutes per call, and 44% say it saves them between 1-10 minutes.
  • 89% of emergency services agree that what3words makes it easier for people to communicate their location during times of emergency.

Emergency call centres are adopting what3words at a rapid pace, with control rooms in the US, Australia, France, Germany, Belgium, Austria, Singapore, Canada, India, and South Africa all utilising the innovative technology, and urging the public to download the app. As well as using the app for emergencies, people are using what3words every day to meet up with friends at parks and on beaches, to share great running and hiking locations, and to share sports match locations with their teams

1 In a recent voluntary survey of nine UK emergency services by what3words.
2 https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2022/jul/13/three-quarters-of-uk-adults-cant-read-a-map-heres-how-to-get-better-ordnance-survey-study