SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Utah’s emergency response teams are launching an awareness campaign for a free app that could help them pinpoint the exact location they need to go in the event of an emergency.
The app is called What3Words. According to the website, it was designed to add higher accuracy to specify precise locations that don’t exist for parks and many rural areas.
The app works by breaking up the entire planet into a grid of squares 10 feet by 10 feet wide. Each square across the world has been assigned a three-word code that will never change. When contacting emergency personnel for help, tell them you’re using the What3Words app, and you can provide that specific three-word code. This will give first responders your exact location down to a 10-foot radius, even if there are no landmarks to guide you or you’re in an unfamiliar area and can’t identify landmarks.
It’s also available in 54 languages, making it accessible to everyone worldwide and, according to Central Utah 911, the app does not track or store user data.
For example, according to the What3Words map, the 9th-and-9th whale in Salt Lake City occupies four squares, each given its own name. The first is “corner.person.area,” then “locate.cloth.races.,” “jams.bucked.clap,” and finally, “jumped.decks.chief.”
Central Utah 911 said the app can really help in Utah and Juab counties, where every year, response teams brace for a busy period of calls as locals and visitors head out for hikes, swims, BBQs, and more.
“In an emergency, identifying precisely where help is needed is critical to getting resources to the scene quickly,” said Central Utah 911 in a statement. “However, emergency control centers often cannot automatically detect a caller’s precise location, and callers themselves can struggle to provide precise locations in areas without street addresses such as large parks or campsites. In these moments, response teams can spend precious time and resources just trying to locate the person in need of help.”
According to Central Utah 911, What3Words is the simple solution. It has been using the app since January 2021 and says it’s already been used several times to help those in need fast. In one case, responders were able to quickly locate an injured hiker in Diamond Fork Canyon. Another case involved a man experiencing chest pain in a crowd at a rodeo.
What3Words can also be used offline, making it even more useful when out in areas where cell reception is spotty such as Utah’s Mighty Five National Parks or while in the mountains on a hike.
“While not intended as a replacement for the traditional ‘must-pack’ equipment and resources worth bringing along on all road trips, hikes and outdoor adventures, the technology has become a well-used additional tool to emergency services around the world, saving dispatchers and responders time and resources in an emergency,” said Central Utah 911.
The app is available online through web browsers and for download on Android and iPhone devices.