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To ensure first responders can be directed quickly to precisely where help is needed, no matter where an incident occurs, the South Shore Regional Emergency Communications Center encourages the public to download and familiarize themselves with the free what3words app. what3words provides a simple way to communicate precise locations. Across the United States, the technology has been successfully used by 911 teams for everything from reporting fires and rescuing pets, to locating injured hikers and lost kayakers with pinpoint accuracy.


In an emergency, identifying precisely where help is needed is critical to getting resources to the scene quickly and efficiently, but this can be challenging when callers are in remote or unfamiliar areas, places without street addresses, on unnamed trails, or on unmarked highways. In these situations, response teams waste precious time and resources trying to locate the person in need of help.


what3words has divided the world into a grid of 10-foot squares and given each square a unique combination of 3 random words: a what3words address. For example, ///hunt.movies.rang is a 10-foot by 10-foot square inside Hingham Town Hall.

The app is free to download for both iOS and Android devices, and works offline, making it ideal for use in areas with an unreliable data connection, such as hiking trails and campsites. what3words gives callers a simple way to describe precisely where help is needed and enables dispatch to send resources straight to the scene as efficiently as possible. 

In Deerfield, Massachusetts, police officers and firefighters used the technology to help pinpoint a lost and injured kayaker in the Deerfield River. The 911 caller stated he lost voice contact with the kayaker, and that he was floating down the river, unable to get out. Deerfield Fire Chief Darren Melnik requested the Greenfield Drone Unit to respond and assist with the search, and within two minutes of launching a drone with a thermal camera, they located an empty kayak. Shortly after, they located a person on the shore up river and using what3words, the teams relayed the location to the responders and firefighters were able to quickly rescue him. 

The technology is available in 54 languages to date and can be used anywhere in the world. The system does not store or track users’ location data, and there are no advertisements in the app or online map. 

Our communication specialists are trained to gather as much location information as possible from callers. Consequently, they have access to a number of different technologies and methods which help them to identify callers’ locations – what3words being one of them. While not intended as a replacement for the traditional ‘must-pack’ equipment and resources for road trips, hikes and outdoor adventures, the technology has become a well-used partner to emergency services around the world, saving communication specialist and first responders time and resources in an emergency.

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