Herts police praise 'life-saving' mobile phone app which reveals your location in three words

PUBLISHED: 16:54 19 September 2019 | UPDATED: 16:54 19 September 2019

Herts police have been using what3words as a key tool in their 999 response strategy. Picture: What3words

Herts police have been using what3words as a key tool in their 999 response strategy. Picture: What3words

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Herts police are saving lives thanks to a unique app which reveals your location in just three words.

Herts and Beds emergency services were among the first in the country to use the app. Picture: what3wordsHerts and Beds emergency services were among the first in the country to use the app. Picture: what3words

When Superintendent Richard Liversidge was cycling with his teenage sons near Grafham Water in Cambridgeshire, he came across a woman who had fallen from her bike and was suffering from serious injuries.

She had a deep puncture wound to her leg and possible chest injuries which required urgent medical attention.

The only problem? They were on rural pathways with no postcode or identifiable landmarks.

Thankfully, through his role in the Herts force, Supt Liversidge knew about an app which could find their location in a matter of seconds - what3words.

Chris Sheldrick grew up in the Hertfordshire village of Hinxworth. Picture: what3wordsChris Sheldrick grew up in the Hertfordshire village of Hinxworth. Picture: what3words

"I had the app downloaded on my mobile phone, and our what3words location was relayed to the East of England Ambulance Service who were on the scene within eight minutes. It was a fantastic response."

What3words, founded in 2013 by Chris Sheldrick, divides the world into 57 trillion 3mx3m squares.

Each square has been assigned a random three-word address - for instance, filled.count.soap marks the exact entrance to what3words' London headquarters - which can then be linked to GPS such as Google Maps, to reveal your precise location.

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This means that no matter where you are - a field, or a large building with only one postcode - emergency services can see your exact 3x3m location, and reach life-threatening situations in a matter of minutes.

Supt Ken Townsend, who leads on public contact for the Herts force, said: "What3words has proved to be an excellent resource for officers, police staff and the public alike.

"The system is part of our force communications room toolkit, with operators using the app when required during 999 and 101 calls.

"Being able to pinpoint a location quickly is absolutely vital and has the potential to be lifesaving. The minutes and seconds saved in identifying a location can ensure the correct resources are sent to a person in need."

Chris Sheldrick - who grew up in the rural Hertfordshire village of Hinxworth, near Baldock - says the app was "originally conceived as a corrective to the outdated postcodal model of the 1960s".

"The world needed a new evolved form of address - a simpler, easier way to talk about location," he said.

"We knew when we created the app that this was something that had global application, and could be used widely by emergency services.

"But it has been amazing to see this come to fruition, particularly among Herts and Beds police who have been at the forefront of rolling out use of the app among forces."

Herts police are urging members of the public to download the free app onto their phone, and will be communicating the benefits of what3words to rural communities during Rural Crime Week in October.

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