Three words are all it takes for emergency services to nail down the location of a lost and injured outdoor enthusiast– thanks to a phone app that syncs their GPS coordinates.
The free app What3words recently helped save capsized canoeists near Revelstoke, according to BC Emergency Health Services.
On May 7, a canoe with two paddlers overturned on the Columbia River, approximately 15 km south of Highway 1. The two men were in the frigid water for approximately 15 minutes, before they managed to make it to shore, according to a Facebook post from the company that rented the canoe to the paddlers.
With less than four per cent battery life remaining, the stranded canoeists managed to call 911. Loyd Ondang was one of the paramedics that responded.
Since the canoeists did not know their location, paramedics and police had to guess. Emergency services tried to find the stranded men by yelling and using binoculars near the location where they thought the accident occurred, without success.
To help find the men faster, who were at risk for hypothermia with nightfall approaching, Ondang decided to use What3Words, which was recently implemented by BC Emergency Health Service in March.
The app has given every three metre square in the world a unique three-word address. The words are randomly assigned to each square and will always stay the same. For example, the three word location for the front door of 24 Sussex Drive in Ottawa, the official home of the Prime Minister of Canada is arrives.thunder.concerts.
Ondang said it’s easier for people to give their location with just three words in dire situations, instead of using a lengthy string of longitude and latitude coordinates.
The dispatcher sent the app to the stranded men, who managed to share their three word location. Within minutes, paramedics and police were able to safely find them.
“This is a life saving tool. Everyone has a cellphone now. It can save some complication in a serious situation,” said Ondang.
Previously, paramedics and police may have used a grid search to find patients, which can take hours.
“I’m quite excited about this new tool,” Ondang said.
What3words was first created in the U.K. in 2013 and is credited to saving the lives of outdoor enthusiasts around the world. It’s used by other emergency services in the U.S, Australia and Scotland.
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