On Friday, the Dallas Police Department and Dallas Fire Rescue announced a new way for people in need of emergency services to share their location with 911 dispatchers.
The departments have partnered with What3words, a geolocation service based in London. What3words is a website and app featuring a map that has divided the globe into 3-by-3 meter squares, each square corresponding to a unique chain of three words. For example, “shed-rocky-echo” corresponds to a 3-by-3 meter square in the DPD headquarters.
What3words can help those calling for emergency services give dispatchers a more exact location. It can also help people who may not know exactly where they are. For example, if an individual crashed a car in a remote location with no cross streets or mile markers visible, they could view their specific location using the What3words app and report the corresponding three words to a 911 dispatcher. Dallas first responders could then locate the scene of the accident by using those three words.
The map is used by zooming into an exact location and tapping or clicking a square. The square’s assigned three words will then pop up on the screen, which can be relayed to first responders. Dallas first responders then enter the three words to their own What3words map and in turn have an exact location to target.
“Being able to get a location quickly is everything in an emergency situation because time is crucial,” Police Chief Eddie Garcia said. “An additional tool like What3words will help us find a location quickly, and respond to an emergency faster to get help to those who need it.”
Some rescue crews in the United Kingdom, where What3words was first launched, have criticized the service for using similar-sounding words for different squares. If you report three words from the map to an emergency dispatcher, be sure to enunciate and provide spellings if necessary.
What3words is available for free at what3words.com and on iOS and Android mobile devices.