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emergency services and what3words


Jim Riley

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I've posted about this before, just got this through today, the emergency services are now using it to find you...

Summer’s a great time to be out and about, going to festivals and exploring the countryside. Unfortunately, these places can be difficult to describe in emergencies, which means that 999 call handlers have to deal with directions like “I can see a farm in the distance…” or “I’m near the white tent”. When every second counts, being able to describe where help is needed is crucial.
This week, emergency services across the UK are joining forces to raise awareness of what3words in their local communities. The message is simple: this summer, help emergency services find you by downloading the free what3words app and be prepared to give your 3 word address if needed.
This simple action could save lives this summer, and we’d love for you to be involved in sharing this message. This is how you can help:
Share a post on your social media to reach friends, family and your wider community using the hashtag #Help999FindYou and tag @what3words.
If sharing by email, Facebook etc., use this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EHS3tKpeUYw&feature=youtu.be

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34 minutes ago, Jim Riley said:

I've posted about this before, just got this through today, the emergency services are now using it to find you...

Summer’s a great time to be out and about, going to festivals and exploring the countryside. Unfortunately, these places can be difficult to describe in emergencies, which means that 999 call handlers have to deal with directions like “I can see a farm in the distance…” or “I’m near the white tent”. When every second counts, being able to describe where help is needed is crucial.
This week, emergency services across the UK are joining forces to raise awareness of what3words in their local communities. The message is simple: this summer, help emergency services find you by downloading the free what3words app and be prepared to give your 3 word address if needed.
This simple action could save lives this summer, and we’d love for you to be involved in sharing this message. This is how you can help:
Share a post on your social media to reach friends, family and your wider community using the hashtag #Help999FindYou and tag @what3words.
If sharing by email, Facebook etc., use this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EHS3tKpeUYw&feature=youtu.be

What happens when your phone battery is flat ?

 

I have a GPS watch (and several other GPS devices) l simply have to press a button to get my position to within (normally) about 15 feet.

 

I also have a personal location beacon (PLB) which when the button is pressed sends a signal on 406Mhz up to a satellite and down to the Search & Rescue services. SAR are notified of your position within 5 minutes of your 'call' and a helicopter can be on its way to you within 10 minutes.

Is only the size Mars-bars used to be & works worldwide on Land & Sea.

 

A bit like having 'combi-devices' on the boat - I'd rather have dedicated separates - especially if involves safety.

 

 

Fast_Find_220_information_sheet (1).pdf

Edited by Alan de Enfield
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Alan - It seems that your post is simply suggesting that people either keep their phones charged up, or buy a PLB, ( and make sure the battery is charged or replaced in a timely manner ?). Good advice :)

 

It is unlikely that a narrowboater, or an ordinary person out for a walk, is going to have/buy/carry a PLB, like your ocean going bit of kit, which also works on land. Most people are likely to have a smart mobile phone with enough charge, particularly if they have read your post. They might even carry something with additional charge for phones.

 

I would agree that, if someone is going somewhere where the mobile phone signal may be poor/non existent, it is a good idea to consider alternative means of contacting the emergency services in the event of an unfortunate incident.

 

what3words seems to be a useful addition to the arsenal, particularly when the emergency service involved is now likely to be familiar with it. They may not be familiar with Lat Long co-ordinates, or other positioning notations.

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1 minute ago, Richard10002 said:

like your ocean going bit of kit, which also works on land.

All your points are valid, but I'd just mention that in fact the PLB is a piece of 'hiking' kit rather than a piece of 'offshore' kit (although it can be used at sea)

 

Irrespective of battery failure :

I still suggest that 'putting all your eggs in one basket' is a weakness - should you fall in the canal, would your phone still work ?

If you fall onto a rock and smash your phone - would it still work ?

 

I'd suggest that it must be easier for the 999 services to use a system already available and for which their vehicles are already equipped (GPS) rather than use their phone to find out where ///eyelashes.decoding.voltage is.

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Hmm, I looked up W3W and found a blog criticising W3W, not least for not being open source, but also pointing out the following which may support Alan's view above:

 

But W3W have a great PR team - pushing press releases which are then reported as uncritical news.

The most recent press release contains a ludicrousexample:

  • Person dials the emergency services
  • Person doesn't know their location
  • Emergency services sends the person a link
  • Person clicks on link, opens web page
  • Web page geolocates user and displays their W3W location
  • Person reads out their W3W phrase to the emergency services

Here's the thing... If the person's phone has a data connection - the web page can just send the geolocation directly back to the emergency services! No need to get a human to read it out, then another human to listen and type it in to a different system.

There is literally no need for W3W in this scenario. If you have a data connection, you can send your precise location without an intermediary.

 

I found the article enlightening - it's here 

https://shkspr.mobi/blog/2019/03/why-bother-with-what-three-words/

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25 minutes ago, Alan de Enfield said:

I'd suggest that it must be easier for the 999 services to use a system already available and for which their vehicles are already equipped (GPS) rather than use their phone to find out where ///eyelashes.decoding.voltage is.

It would seem that they've been using it for a wile and that this is just a push to let people know that the service exists. 

 

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-47705912

Three seemingly unconnected words have helped rescue a mother and daughter after a car crash in remote rural Somerset.It has been used in several other cases, including:

A call handler used it to send someone to rescue a victim of sexual assault being held hostage and capture the offender

A member of the public used it to locate a remote riverside path where she had found a lost child

A taxi driver used it to locate a drunk man lying in a road

It was used to pinpoint the exact location of a road accident

 

https://www.unilad.co.uk/news/three-words-saved-sexual-assault-hostage-victims-life/

 

12 minutes ago, Sea Dog said:

Hmm, I looked up W3W and found a blog criticising W3W, not least for not being open source, but also pointing out the following which may support Alan's view above:

 

Here's the thing... If the person's phone has a data connection - the web page can just send the geolocation directly back to the emergency services! No need to get a human to read it out, then another human to listen and type it in to a different system.

There is literally no need for W3W in this scenario. If you have a data connection, you can send your precise location without an intermediary.

 

I know next to nothing about WTW so this is a legitimate question. If that's the case then why are the police force so keen to use the system where the words are physically spoken back to the telephonist. 

 

17 minutes ago, Sea Dog said:

I found the article enlightening - it's here 

https://shkspr.mobi/blog/2019/03/why-bother-with-what-three-words/

I personally didn't find it very enlightening, I've heard these arguments before about other technology, mostly from 4chan types who think they should get free access to everything online, all software and media.  This guys opinion is pretty much akin to me saying I don't like public swimming pools; I don't and I would never get in one, my reasons for not liking them are perfectly valid but they also don't make public swimming pools a bad thing they just mean I don't like them. 

 

 

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1 hour ago, Alan de Enfield said:

All your points are valid, but I'd just mention that in fact the PLB is a piece of 'hiking' kit rather than a piece of 'offshore' kit (although it can be used at sea)

 

Irrespective of battery failure :

I still suggest that 'putting all your eggs in one basket' is a weakness - should you fall in the canal, would your phone still work ?

If you fall onto a rock and smash your phone - would it still work ?

 

I'd suggest that it must be easier for the 999 services to use a system already available and for which their vehicles are already equipped (GPS) rather than use their phone to find out where ///eyelashes.decoding.voltage is.

Norfolk emergency services are using but I am not sure all are. Some seem completely lost if you cant give a post code

7 minutes ago, Tony Brooks said:

As usual these days more assuming everyone has a smart phone and access to the internet. My PAYG mobile phone certainly won't run the W3W app.

My new (second hand) one will, the old one didn't and I was surprised how easy it is to use, even with no phone signal, just click the app and the three words appear. 

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16 minutes ago, Tony Brooks said:

As usual these days more assuming everyone has a smart phone and access to the internet. My PAYG mobile phone certainly won't run the W3W app.

I don't think anybody's assuming anything, it's just a tool that is available in the same way that a postcode is, you can't always give a postcode either, but somehow they find you. 

 

It was initially setup to be used in developing countries where the vast majority of the population have never had a house phone or a computer and their only access to the internet and commerce is through their smartphones. 

 

https://what3words.com/about/

 

 

 

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Usual dog in a manger attitude!

Well, for the Messrs Picky, you can use it, or not, in whatever setting you choose.

Far easier to give them 3 words than a long lat/long number, especially in times of stress, a smaller margin for error or transposition. 

What happens when the batteries on your other devices run out, shit happens, you die, get over it. 

As for critical reviews on the net, it's full of them, about everything. Use it if you wish. 

I'd also say that w3w is easier for most people to understand. 

CWDF isn't open source either, it's privately owned and controlled, doesn't stop you using it. 

32 minutes ago, Tony Brooks said:

As usual these days more assuming everyone has a smart phone and access to the internet. My PAYG mobile phone certainly won't run the W3W app.

Your pigeons will always get through. 

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Think I read about this a while ago...its a good idea, do the owners have patents etc? Its not totally new. Ford used something similar on their ecu modules (might be 4 words, not sure) as they have lots of versions and variants to the internal code and data and a few short words were a lot nicer than a great big version number.

 

..............Dave

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When you got to their website and read the about section they have a little section illustrated with a narrowboat which I though was nice. 

 

Irregular and incomplete

75% of the world suffers from poor addressing or none at all. The other 25% still lacks universal coverage. Whilst improvements have been made in mapping and navigation, defining exactly where “there” is remains a big issue.

narrowBoat.jpg

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Nick is using it in CanalPlanAC but I haven't tried it.

 

"

Somebody somewhere (but I can't track it down) asked if CanalPlan could display "What3Words" codes for places.

I've now added a whole heap of additional references to places, and found a way to do it that doesn't clutter things up too much (I hope).

There's a little "more" button under the date on any gazetteer pages that we have extra data for. Others will slowly acquire the data as the background refresh works its way round.

See for example the (very appropriately coded) Barbridge Junction - "rise.yesterday.steers")
https://canalplan.org.uk/place/pqeo "

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Oh well thats a pile of junk. "what3words will not work until you update Google Play." ????? WHY. For an emergency type service that's rubbish. Plus you have to turn on location anyway for it to work and that should tell the emergency services where you are. Far too complicated.

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7 hours ago, Alan de Enfield said:

What happens when your phone battery is flat ?

 

I have a GPS watch (and several other GPS devices) l simply have to press a button to get my position to within (normally) about 15 feet.

 

I also have a personal location beacon (PLB) which when the button is pressed sends a signal on 406Mhz up to a satellite and down to the Search & Rescue services. SAR are notified of your position within 5 minutes of your 'call' and a helicopter can be on its way to you within 10 minutes.

Is only the size Mars-bars used to be & works worldwide on Land & Sea.

 

A bit like having 'combi-devices' on the boat - I'd rather have dedicated separates - especially if involves safety.

 

 

Fast_Find_220_information_sheet (1).pdf 1.44 MB · 1 download

None of the Fire, Police or Ambulances services in the UK that I work with have any working systems that connect with your PLB.
 

Edited by Graham Davis
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1 hour ago, pete.i said:

Oh well thats a pile of junk. "what3words will not work until you update Google Play." ????? WHY. For an emergency type service that's rubbish. Plus you have to turn on location anyway for it to work and that should tell the emergency services where you are. Far too complicated.

One; it isn't an "emergency service"; it is a voluntary aid to the Emergency Services.

Two; location services on a mobile phone are not accurate enough in many areas. They rely on both satellite reception AND Mobile phone masts. Triangulation from mobile phone masts requires atleast 3 masts to provide a fix, and the further away those masts are the less accurate is the fix. Around here the BEST accuracy we could get from 3 masts was 100 metres! In many areas we couldn't get any masts. Plus sat. reception was decidedly patchy due to deep valleys and tree cover.

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4 minutes ago, Graham Davis said:

None of the Fire, Police or Ambulances services in the UK that I work with have any working systems that connect with your PLB.
 

Maybe you are not aware of how they work.

 

The signal goes up to the satellite detailing time and location.

The satellite sends a signal to the UK SAR co-ordination centre detailing the time of call and the location of the 'casualty'.

The SAR Centre notifies the nearest (to the casualty) emergency services be it Police, SAR Helicopter, Coastguard, Mountain Rescue etc etc detailing the GPS co-ordinates which should take them to within about 15 feet of the casualty.

 

Having had to ride 'up-front' recently in an East Midlands (land) ambulance because the 'back' had 6 medics (including the Helicopter medics) looking after my wife who they determined would not be safe to fly I was talking with the driver as we "blued & two'd" to hospital and he was explaining that they DO have GPS SatNav on board and can work with either Lat/Long co-ordinates, or Map references.

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3 minutes ago, Graham Davis said:

Two; location services on a mobile phone are not accurate enough in many areas. They rely on both satellite reception AND Mobile phone masts. Triangulation from mobile phone masts requires atleast 3 masts to provide a fix, and the further away those masts are the less accurate is the fix. Around here the BEST accuracy we could get from 3 masts was 100 metres! In many areas we couldn't get any masts. Plus sat. reception was decidedly patchy due to deep valleys and tree cover.

Which is why when I am hiking I have my GPS watch and a dedicated hand-held sat-nav with OS maps of the whole of the UK at scales down to 1:10,000 and will give my GPS location, or OS Grid reference within 15 feet.

 

These are fine for knowing where you are, and ensuring you stay on the path, and even give an accurate position to inform the SAR if you need to, but as Graham explains, use a phone and lose the signal and your are in the stinky-stuff.

It is for emergencies like this that the 'Fast Find PLB comes into its own - doesn't matter is you are in a building, under the tree canopy or in a deep valley, the GPS signal gets directly to an overhead satellite

1 minute ago, Graham Davis said:

GPS sat nav is NOT the same thing as your PLB. and there is NO connection between you activating your PLB and the Ambulance directly.


 

I do not recall suggesting that there was.

 

See my post just above yours - (its showing as post#2 for me but it follows post#15 so summats odd !)

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9 hours ago, ditchcrawler said:

Norfolk emergency services are using but I am not sure all are. Some seem completely lost if you cant give a post code

My new (second hand) one will, the old one didn't and I was surprised how easy it is to use, even with no phone signal, just click the app and the three words appear. 

I know I might be missing the point here, but if you have no phone signal, how is knowing where you are going to get someone to you?:unsure:

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11 hours ago, pete.i said:

WHY. For an emergency type service that's rubbish. Plus you have to turn on location anyway for it to work and that should tell the emergency services where you are. Far too complicated

Do you have a smart phone? Are you in the UK? If yes, dial 999 (or 112)

For the last four years or so (depending on model and network) the phone will: -

  • Dial 999 - connect you by voice to the police or emergency services as usual
  • Check the battery, if enough to not risk the voice call, enable GPS
  • Wait 20 seconds
  • Send a silent text to fire police / ambulance with your lat / long (and other parameters including phone number which they can match to the voice call which may still be in progress)
  • Job done

Position for blue lights is integrated into their control rooms (anyone who works in a UK blue light control room and thinks otherwise; PM me, I'll give you a contact at the primary PSAP)

BT have since given the design to other countries

 

Started with Sony and EE in 2014; now covers all four UK networks and Sony, Samsung, Apple, HTC and others.

 

Keep it simple. Everything else is "what 3 words" pushing technology for their own benefit.

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14 minutes ago, 1st ade said:
  • Dial 999 - connect you by voice to the police or emergency services as usual
  • Check the battery, if enough to not risk the voice call, enable GPS
  • Wait 20 seconds
  • Send a silent text to fire police / ambulance with your lat / long (and other parameters including phone number which they can match to the voice call which may still be in progress)
  • Job done

Indeed it does.

(But - if the phone doesn't work (for whatever reason) its all irrelevant).

 

When my wife had her accident we were just on the opposite side of the hedge to a road - the Land ambulance stopped about 10 feet away from us on the road side of the hedge. They could not see us and we didn't hear them coming as they had turned the sirens off.

We had not given him such precise directions on the phone, they told me the phone was 'traced' which is one of the reasons the operator keeps you talking when you actually want to be looking after the patient.

The Air-Ambulance actually went by verbal directions from his controller (40 miles away) and landed about 2 miles to the West of us.

I called 999 again to get the helicopter back to us and had a HUGE argument with the controller who insisted the helicopter was in the correct place, I asked them to take off and head 2 miles East but the controller said they couldn't just take off and fly wherever they wanted, they must file a new flight plan - they eventually did take off and land in the correct place - it was fortunate really as the Land ambulance medics were not qualified to give the wife the treatment that she needed whilst the Heli-Doctor was, and because of that he had to accompany her in the Land ambulance to hospital so the Air-Ambulance was effectively grounded until the Doctor was able to leave the Hospital and re-join the Helicopter.

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1 hour ago, Alan de Enfield said:

(But - if the phone doesn't work (for whatever reason) its all irrelevant).

Agree - so it then comes down to how much backup do you plan for something that may never happen. A mobile phone each is a good start (and 999 [unlike what 3 words] works if you can't unlock the phone. And will work if there is no coverage on your network provided there is coverage on "A" network [the silent text to 999 works on any network as well...])

 

The project was kicked off by BT in 2012 following a 999 call from a horse rider, thrown from her horse. She broke her back but was conscious. She called 999 - "where are you?", "under a tree"

 

She managed (slowly) to describe to the operator which road she'd been on, where she turned off, roughly how long she'd ridden for along that track. And they found her, eventually.

 

In open countryside (where, as others have said, triangulation on cell sites is quite vague) Advanced Mobile Location brings the location of the caller down from 6km to 6m - a 1,000 fold improvement. it's not quite as impressive in an urban environment but can improve from around a km to around 50 metres; the difference between knowing which estate and knowing which road. On a good day on the motorway it can say which carriageway the caller is on. And if the caller is an observer and still driving (hands free, obviously...) it can work back to where they were when they hit 999 as opposed to where they are now.

2 hours ago, Alan de Enfield said:

We had not given him such precise directions on the phone, they told me the phone was 'traced' which is one of the reasons the operator keeps you talking when you actually want to be looking after the patient

A little white lie - the trace happens (assuming post 2014 and a modern[ish] phone) as you start the call and continues even if you hang up

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20 hours ago, Alan de Enfield said:

All your points are valid, but I'd just mention that in fact the PLB is a piece of 'hiking' kit rather than a piece of 'offshore' kit (although it can be used at sea)

 

Irrespective of battery failure :

I still suggest that 'putting all your eggs in one basket' is a weakness - should you fall in the canal, would your phone still work ?

If you fall onto a rock and smash your phone - would it still work ?

 

I'd suggest that it must be easier for the 999 services to use a system already available and for which their vehicles are already equipped (GPS) rather than use their phone to find out where ///eyelashes.decoding.voltage is.

 

I don't think anyone was suggesting that using w3w is putting all your eggs in one basket by precluding the use of any other location system. The more the merrier. Your own logic suggests that you will be downloading the app?

Edited by blackrose
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