3 words can save lives

The North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) has invested in new technology to increase its response time to patients in hard to reach locations.

‘Where’s the emergency?’ is one of the first questions you are asked when calling 999 but saying exactly where you are can be challenging. Emergencies can happen anywhere, from Northumberland countryside to heritage North East beaches; these all present a challenge to locate patients in rural areas for NEAS.

Explaining where you are can be difficult over the phone and landmark-based descriptions are prone to errors and GPS coordinates are long and difficult to communicate. Finding your location quickly can mean the difference between life and death in some cases. In winter especially, if you are not found quick enough outside you can suffer from hypothermia, which is a series condition when your body temperature drops dangerously low.

The what3words platform has divided coordinates of the world into a grid of 3m x 3m squares.  It has given each square a unique combination of three words - a what3words address, which will take you to a precise location.

After it was used successfully used elsewhere in the region by neighbouring emergency services, NEAS now joins over 90 emergency services across Great Britain who are doing the same.

PhoneThe new app has been streamlined within the ambulance service’s Emergency Operations Centre by integrating the platform into its system where emergency calls are taken. Once the three words have been provided to the call handler, they will then input these into the app and track your location. Emergency help can then be directed to you.

Systems and resilience dispatch officer Mark Hagan has been the lead for NEAS on installing the what3words app into its system. He said, “A 999 call could be one of the worst times of your life. You might be on your own in immediate danger, possibly in a lot of pain or feeling very unwell. It’s the job of our health advisors to find where you are as quickly as possible. As every minute is delayed getting our frontline crew to you, the more your condition will deteriorate.

“It is often assumed that our call handlers know your location based on phone signals, but they don’t and it can be very stressful at times trying to find the location of a patient who needs urgent help.

“Before the new technology, we relied on people trying to identify landmarks, shops or junctions and this often proved difficult. If people were from outside of the area this was an added challenge as they weren’t familiar with where they were.

“In the week we have been using what3words, it has been used five times so far to locate patients and we anticipate it will be used more frequently.

“We also rely on resources from neighbouring partners such as the Coastguard and Mountain Rescue Service to locate a patient, but this app will really cut down on the time it will take to respond to patients and potentially save more lives.”

The app is free to download for both iOS and Android and works entirely offline – making it ideal for use in areas of the UK, even with an unreliable data connection. What3words can also be used via the online map at: https://what3words.com and the technology is available in over 40 languages, as well as being accessible anywhere in the world.

Bambrugh CastleRemember, if you are in an emergency and unable to tell the call handler of your exact location, follow these instructions on how to use what3words:

  1. Find the three-word address for your current location on the what3words app.
  2. Share your three-word address over the phone to the call handler.
  3. The emergency service can then coordinate a response directly to the exact location where help is needed.

From horse riders, kayakers and rural walkers to mountain bikers, car crashes and sailors; the list is endless for reasons why you should download the what3words app as you never know when you might be in an emergency and it might just save your life.

To find out more about the platform and to read the real-life stories of those when the app saved their life, follow this link: www.knowexactlywhere.com

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Copyright 2011 North East Ambulance Service Trust

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