Lives could be saved this summer thanks to a new system being used by South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT).
SWASFT has recently adopted the three-word global address system called what3words in its Control Room to locate patients within a three-square metre area.
999 callers can use the free app to find the three-word address for their location and share it with the call handler.
The Control Room can use the address to identify the precise location and send help exactly where it is needed.
SWASFT is encouraging people to download the app, but only to use it in a genuine emergency.
It is hoped the app will be used positively to help locate patients at this week’s Glastonbury Festival where crews expect to attend around 200 emergency incidents.
David Fletcher, Head of SWASFT Clinical Hubs, said: “We cover an incredibly complex and varied area, including rural and urban regions, but sometimes there are no postcodes or clear directions to help us to pinpoint the location of patients in need of our care.
“While we will continue to use our existing mapping systems, we are now also using the new technology to locate incidents.
“This new mapping system will allow people to tell us easily and simply exactly where they are. So no matter whether they are in the middle of Dartmoor, at a festival, or in the middle of a university campus, their location will have a unique three-word description which will help us to find them.
“If you download the app, it will mean we can find you more easily in an emergency when every second counts. It really could be the difference between life and death.”
Identifying precisely where help is needed in an emergency is critical. But it can be hard for callers to communicate where they are.
what3words divides the world into 57 trillion nine-square-metre (97-sq-ft) areas and gives each a unique three-word address. For example, the entrance to Exeter Cathedral can be found at ‘‘///cloth.kings.title’.
The system is intended to give callers a simple way to say exactly where help is needed, and allow resources to be sent straight to the scene.
Avon and Somerset Police, who have been using the technology for around a year, said it has benefited its response to emergencies.
Sam Sheppard, Command and Control Systems Manager, said: “Having this type of technology integrated within our Command and Control system has changed the way we are able to deal with incidents where the location isn’t known.
“The Control Room staff that have used what3words for an emergency call have said how easy it is, and they were able to find the location a lot quicker than they previously would have.”
If the user has the app on their phone, they don’t even need a data signal to obtain their location, because the app can use GPS signal to identify their current location and provide their 3-word address.
The free-to-use system is available as an app and through the company’s website.
Chris Sheldrick, CEO and Founder of what3words said: “‘Being in need of urgent help and not being able to easily describe where you are can be very distressing for the person involved and a really difficult situation for emergency services. Today people nearly always have their phone on them. We need to use the tools at our disposal to improve public services and potentially save lives. Just as you may have your In Case of Emergency contacts set up on your phone, we encourage everyone to download the app to make sure they are ready to quickly share accurate location information, should the worst happen. It’s free, it’s simple to use, and one day it might make sure you get the help you need when you need it most.”
People are reminded only to call 999 when someone is seriously ill or injured, and their life may be at risk.