‘Ideal’ phone app helps police locate lost and injured people


Technology has become well used by emergency services around the world, saving dispatchers and responders time and resources in an emergency




Police Week 2022 runs from Nov. 6 to 12 and focuses on how we make our communities safer and stronger together. Policing requires community partnerships to achieve these goals.

Today, OPP officers are putting the focus on being safer by using location technology.

The What3Words app provides a simple way to communicate a very precise location. Across Ontario, the technology has been successfully used for everything from rescuing pets to locating lost and injured snowmobilers/ATVs with pinpoint accuracy.

With the fall hunting season in full swing and the winter season soon to arrive, the OPP Communications Centre will be busy with calls for service. In an emergency, identifying precisely where help is needed is critical to getting resources to the scene quickly; however, this can be challenging when callers are in remote or unfamiliar areas, without street addresses or on unnamed trails.

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

Using a What3Words address gives callers a simple way to describe precisely where help is needed and enables call takers to dispatch resources straight to the scene, saving precious minutes in an emergency.

What3Words has divided the world into a grid of 10-feet squares and given each square a unique combination of three random words: a What3Words address. For example, relations.fatigue.appraise will take you to the front door of the Southern Georgian Bay OPP Detachment.

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 hiking trails and campsites. What3Words can also be used via the online map at What3Words.com.

Emergency Response Teams from across Canada have praised What3Words as a multilingual, innovative location technology for decreasing response times when it matters most. The OPP launched the use of the What3Words app in December 2020. Downloading the What3Words app is, therefore, one of the simplest actions the public can do.

Even without the app being loaded, OPP Communications staff were able to locate the injured driver in Orillia. Map app helps OPP rescue injured snowmobiler on Lake Couchiching – Orillia News (orilliamatters.com)

Emergency services are trained to gather as much location information as possible from callers. Consequently, they have access to several different technologies and methods which help them to identify callers’ locations – with What3Words being one of them.

While not intended as a replacement for the traditional ‘must-pack’ survival gear worth bringing along on all hikes and outdoor adventures, the technology has become a well-used partner to emergency services around the world, saving dispatchers and responders time and resources in an emergency.



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