Cleveland Police encourage members of the public to download the what3words app
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It’s early afternoon in Cleveland Police’s control room when a call comes in from a panicked woman who had gone for a walk in the woods with her two grandchildren, only to find herself lost.
Scared and confused, the woman had no idea where she was and couldn’t explain to officers her exact location until officers asked her to open what3words.
what3words is a simple way to communicate precise locations. It has divided the world into a grid of 3m x 3m squares and given each square a unique combination of three words: a what3words address.
If you’re ever lost or unsure of your exact location, you can use the app to establish the area’s what3words address which you can then pass onto the 999 operator so they can locate you.
In the event that a caller does not have the app downloaded, emergency services can send a FindMe link which identifies the precise what3words address of where help is needed.
Thankfully, once the woman lost in the woods had established her what3words address, we were able to identify her exact location and give her directions to attending officers.
This is just one recent example of when the app has been used in potentially life-or-death situations.
In Cleveland, the app has been used to locate a lone female walking along the River Tees after she was attacked at knifepoint, aid four children who were stuck in a beck and track down a young male who had become stuck in mud.
It recently helped officers locate a lost child after the control room received a report from a driver that they had seen a young child walking along a road.
The app is also used to help us find high-risk missing people. Just this month, a man spotted a vulnerable missing male and followed him through multiple fields.
Thanks to the man being sent a link to the app, officers were able to locate both men and provide assistance.
what3words is available in 54 languages to date, including Welsh, Arabic, Chinese and Polish, and is free to download for both iOS and Android, and via the online map at what3words.com.
The technology works offline – making it ideal for use in areas of the UK with an unreliable data connection, such as beaches, national parks and campsites.
It is used by 85% of the UK’s emergency services and has become an integral part of the emergency toolkit.
Cleveland Police's Force Control Room Superintendent Paul Richardson said: “what3words is a fantastic tool that allows our operators to pinpoint the caller’s exact location and send resources to that address.
“In critical situations when time is of the essence, it can be lifesaving especially in remote locations or areas that are difficult to identify.
“The app has made a huge difference in our control room at Cleveland Police and it is used regularly by our operators who can even send the caller a link to discover their what3words address. However, I would urge everyone to download the app as soon as possible.
“We hope you don’t find yourself in a situation where you need help and don’t know where you are but if you do, you can be reassured that we will know exactly where you are and can get you the help you need quickly.”
Assistant Chief Constable of Cleveland Police David Felton said: “Using what3words in our control room at Cleveland Police – and encouraging members of the public to download it – enables us to send our resources exactly where help is needed, fast.
“It must be extremely distressing not knowing where you are and requiring urgent help but by passing on three words to our call handlers, we can find your location immediately and get you the support you need.”
Chris Sheldrick, co-founder and CEO of what3words, said: "In emergency situations, it is absolutely critical to be able to describe exactly where help is needed, but often that's not as easy as it sounds.
“what3words is reliable, accurate, and easy-to-use, which is the reason why emergency services like Cleveland Police, and members of the public are using it every day.
“We'd encourage everyone to download the what3words app, it's free. It comes in handy in so many ways, whether you need to find your tent in a busy festival, or navigate to somewhere without an address, and one day, it could help save a life."