Three words that could save your life

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Kingston Fire & Rescue (KFR), Kingston Central Ambulance Communications Centre (CACC), and Kingston Police are encouraging you to download what3words, a free and potentially life-saving smartphone application that helps emergency responders quickly find you when you aren’t sure where you are.

Imagine: You’ve had a car accident, or you’re lost on a trail. You need immediate help but have no idea where you are. What do you do? The situation is not as unique as you might think, says Kim Smith, Supervisor of KFR’s Communications Division, which dispatches fire and rescue calls for the City of Kingston and nine neighbouring communities.

“We live in a beautiful region, with a lot of dirt roads and wild spaces to explore. But in these areas civic addresses can be difficult to find and directions can be challenging to give,” says Smith. “In an emergency, when a caller is distressed and not sure about location, every second counts. what3words provides us with the location information needed to get help to you as quickly as possible.”

Developed by a UK-based company, what3words is a free smartphone application that has assigned a unique three-word combination to every 3m x 3m square on Earth. Kingston is the first community in Canada where all three emergency services have worked together to introduce the application to residents.

“Residents can tell us exactly where they are by opening the application and reading the corresponding three words. The app works offline, too,” says Smith. Location services must be enabled so that the application can locate the smartphone owner. The app does not track a user’s location unless it is open, and it does not save previously visited places.

To ensure broad community coverage, what3words is also being adopted by Kingston Police and Kingston CACC, a service of Kingston Health Sciences Centre that dispatches ambulances for 29 ambulance bases across 48 municipalities in our region.

“We’re the first ambulance dispatch service in Canada to use the app,” says CACC Director Mark Halladay. “It will save time and lives because it helps us to collect critical information that much faster from anyone calling 911 and struggling with their location. Then we can be absolutely specific about where we’re sending paramedics. We encourage everyone to download the application. You never know when you might need it.”

Deputy Chief Chris Scott with Kingston Police says that the app will be leveraged as needed, when dispatching calls. “Our priority is serving and protecting our community. To do this effectively, we work with other emergency services and leverage whatever tools come along that we believe, at the end of the day, will benefit our community.”

The developers of what3words are also happy to add Kingston to the handful of Canadian communities embracing this technology. “what3words is a technology that can benefit any community – but especially those that live an active outdoor lifestyle like in Kingston. We’re thrilled to see a smart and leading city like Kingston be among the first to embrace it in Canada.” says Chris Sheldrick, CEO and co-founder of what3words.

You can download what3words on your smartphone at