A mobile drainage worker has explained how using a smartphone app called What3words when calling 999 for help can pinpoint everyone’s exact location, even if a worker isn’t sure exactly what road they’re on.

The What3words app divides the world into 57 trillion squares, each measuring 3m by 3m and each having a unique, randomly assigned three-word address to identify everyone’s exact location at any time.

The app has been recommended by London Fire Brigade as it can speed up response times of the emergency services, especially when callers are unsure exactly where they are.

In the call, thought to be the first of its kind, Sam Lucas, a drainage worker, recently used the app.

Sam said, “I was working in an area I wasn’t familiar with and saw a bin fire. I had downloaded What3words a couple of weeks before and was really impressed with how quickly it located where I was while I spoke to the 999 control officer.”

Sam fired up the app and gave the control officer the three words — Grin, Bench, Losses.

The Control Officer was Douglas Cawley who said, “We’ve been briefed on how to use What3words and how we can put the three words provided into a mapping system and locate where the caller is. This was the first time I’d used it and it was great at precisely locating the caller so I could direct firefighters to the right place quickly.”

Firefighters from Chiswick fire station were quickly mobilised and had the bin fire on King Street under control in 10 minutes from the time of Sam’s call.

Sam added, “I think the app is brilliant. I work in drainage and I think it is certainly something we should use as we’re working underground in tight spaces and if we’re ever trapped the emergency services can pinpoint our location by three identifiable words.”

Last reviewed 13 September 2019