MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Calling 911 in an emergency can be scary, especially if you can’t provide an address. But the new technology called what3words can now locate emergency calls in seconds via an app or text directly on your mobile phone.
Last April, two hikers in Los Angeles ventured off a trail and got lost, and what3words led rescuers to their exact location.
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A dispatcher told the hikers they would receive a text message with a link and they should click the link and read the three words on the screen. Those were “Difficult”, “Broadcasting” and “Career”.
LA Fire located the remote location within seconds. The new technology divides the entire globe into 57 trillion 10 by 10 foot squares, each with its own unique set of three random words as an address.
“At the moment we can see the point on the map, but without what3words we cannot describe it in English. We have to use a very long time – a series of numbers or letters to do that. However, if you only need to enter three English words, it is like entering an address. It really helped us reduce call processing time, ”said Scott Porter, LAFD’s chief intelligence officer.
Nationwide, the average emergency response time is around 10 minutes, in rural areas even 14 minutes.
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Help comes sooner now.
“The ones that are really helping to get there much faster are our helicopters, our air resources, and they can put them into their system and they can go straight to this place and go overhead.” said LAFD firefighter and dispatcher Steven Marczinko.
Callers who have the app on their phone can quickly share their three-word location with the 911 emergency number. But even without the app, the dispatchers can record a call.
“Even when you are offline with no data, you can still get the three words for your location. If you don’t have the app on your phone, you can send a text message that will take you to a webpage where you can find the three words, ”said Chris Sheldrick, CEO of what3words.
What3words is also used in some smaller emergency services in the US and other countries in more than 30 languages.