Location in an emergency - what3words

edited on 5 Nov 2019 at 22:12 in General
Although fortunately very rare, we have had a couple of incidents where an ambulance has had to be called following an accident on our club rides. The problem then arises of giving the control room our exact position. Nowadays they normally use postcodes, but that doesn't work if you are on a country lane a long way from a house or other building with a letter box. The other option is an Ordnance Survey grid reference, but with the use of Garmins, etc, there may not be anyone on the ride who both has an OS map and knows how to give a grid ref. And as we discovered when we needed an ambulance in the Welsh Borders a few years ago,  not all control rooms will accept a grid reference in any case.

However, there is now a solution to this. A company called what3words has developed a system that gives every 3m x 3m square in the world a unique three-word reference. So, for example, the location of our AGM next week is at ///left.tribal.hungry   There are apps for Android and iOS that will use the phone's GPS to give you your address, even if you don't have an internet connection.

Even better, most police, ambulance and fire services will now accept what3words addresses - there is a full list here

It would be a good idea for our rides leaders (in fact, all our riders) to have this app on their phones, just in case. 

Comments

  • Richard said:
    [snip] So, for example, the location of our AGM next week is at ///left.tribal.hungry   There are apps for Android and iOS that will use the phone's GPS to give you your address, even if you don't have an internet connection.[snip]

    Well done Richard, you've given the location as the Tailor's shop two doors down the road. You should work for our emergency services. I think you mean https://what3words.com/spine.tells.cope (try saying that quickly...)

    If anyone chokes on their battered halibut during the AGM I'll be calling an ambulance to the Calthorpe Arms - a pub on the corner of Gray's Inn Road and Wren Street. If they start asking silly questions or asking me to download an app I'll drop the phone in someone's beer and attempt the Heimlich manoeuvre on the poor sod instead of them listen to us arguing over pronunciation, singular or plural, postcodes, grid references, and lines of longitude and latitude.
  • edited on 5 Nov 2019 at 23:17
     :) 

    1) Actually, my error unintentionally illustrates the problem well - OK, I was a bit hasty in getting the address, and I did it by doing a postcode search on the w3w webpage, but it demonstrates that a postcode is not a very precise way of specifying location.

    2) Of course, in reality if you needed to call an ambulance to a pub you'd use the pub's name and address. What we're discussing here is an accident on a country lane, where you'd get the address from the app using GPS, not a postcode, and in any case being about 100m out wouldn't matter (a classic 6-figure OSGR only specifies a 100m x 100m square anyway).
     
  • AFAIK, if you have a modern smartphone and dial 999 or 112, via something called ANL a SMS message will be automatically sent to the call centre giving your location. 
    What3words is a for-profit company with excellent marketing. The arguable flaw is that it uses words, different in each country. 
  • nickb said:
    AFAIK, if you have a modern smartphone and dial 999 or 112, via something called ANL a SMS message will be automatically sent to the call centre giving your location. 
    What3words is a for-profit company with excellent marketing. The arguable flaw is that it uses words, different in each country. 
    I don't know how well supported ANL is -- I think it's Android-only, and in any case it obviously wasn't used in either of the cases that prompted this discussion.

    I don't disagree that w3w is a well-marketed commercial company, but the fact is that their solution is now supported by most, if not all of the emergency services that we might need on a club run. 

    The "three words" can be in a number of languages, yes, but any of them work worldwide, and for the vast majority of our rides only English is relevant anyway. Reading a string of numbers over the phone is more likely to be error-prone, and OSGR's are GB-only (they don't even work in N. Ireland). 

  • P.S. Most Garmins (with mapping) will display your Latitude and Longitude. How to do this depends on the model, requires delving into the instruction manual that they don't give you.
  • nickb said:
    P.S. Most Garmins (with mapping) will display your Latitude and Longitude. How to do this depends on the model, requires delving into the instruction manual that they don't give you.
    I doubt (though don't know for sure) that the call centres will accept Lat/Lon, given that many won't even accept OSGR's. And reading out the long string of digits that you'd need to get an accurate location with Lat/Lon is even more likely to be error prone than a 6-figure OSGR.
  • ANL works on Fruit phones as well. It's meant to be standard in the UK, the problems often seems to be with the specific control room and operator.
  • edited on 6 Nov 2019 at 00:11
    @Richard I've had W3W on my phone since this summer after I read about it. I immediately agreed it was useful after my experience two years ago when cycling and I happened upon a 70-year-old woman who had fallen over on a bridleway when walking her dog and broken her hip. How many dog walkers have W3W on their phone?

    To cut a long story short I experienced some difficulty with giving the location because the emergency operator could not process the full grid reference that I'd been taught to do on navigation courses. But within a minute I managed to describe where I was and on what path - "I'm south west of Potters Bar on a bridleway between a school and South Mimms Services...." This slight delay of less than a minute paled into insignificance because we waited two hours for anyone to turn up, and then it was the Hazard Response Team who could give her morphine but not take her to hospital. There was a further hour to wait for an ambulance -- more than three hours after I first dialled 999. I rang the ambulance four times, each time going through the same questions about "Is the patient breathing, bleeding, conscious... and where are you?...)

    East of England Ambulance has a poor response record. With this in mind, I would suggest the best app to have on your phone is Uber. If it is safe to move someone -- like a broken arm or collar bone or even a broken hip (my own experience) -- it may be quicker to make a decision to get them into a taxi and to the nearest A and E dept 
  • There's also a St Johns first aid for cyclists app.
  • I think @Richard needs to write an app...
  • LinusR said:
    I think @Richard needs to write an app...
    There are certain people who don't have a smartphone. You'll have to explain it to them.
  • nickb said:
    There's also a St Johns first aid for cyclists app.
    Are ride leaders insured if they give first aid to someone on the ride and they have a claim made against them in respect of the first aid they gave? 

    Answer: Yes, but on the condition that the ride leader has received formal training as a first-aider.

    (From Guidance Note 2 & 3 – Organiser’s Liability Insurance FAQs)

    I have received formal training as a first-aider. A Royal Life Saving Society bronze medal ... erm... in 1988.
  • edited on 6 Nov 2019 at 00:47
    In the UK, as opposed to the US, no-one has been sued for well intentioned first aid. I've done the St John's a few times, last in 2012 (now lapsed, only lasts 3 years). On the most recent course, almost all the emphasis was on making the area safe, when and how to talk to the emergency services, the recovery position and how to do chest compressions. Once you contact the call handler, they should talk you through anything else. The most important item in a first aid kit is a phone - jerseys do as bandages, wash wounds with anything in a water bottle.
    On overnights if I'm the Tec, I carry a space blanket.

    We should encourage leaders to do a course, it's a great pity CUK charge so much for the ones they run.
  • nickb said:
    In the UK, as opposed to the US, no-one has been sued for well intentioned first aid.

    Of course not. I'm merely pointing out that doing navigation courses and following official advice is probably a waste of time and effort, and not a good idea. We are told to learn something, follow proper procedure only to have to ignore it in practise. The emergency services, without telling anyone, soon realised that it was a waste of time training their operators to understand an OS Grid reference when 99.9 percent of their callers would not be able to give this information. The best trained people to give a location are, in practise, unfortunately the least prepared for the realities of an emergency situation.
  • In addition to or instead of what3words, the free OS Locate app will give you grid ref or Lat/long: 
    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=uk.co.ordnancesurvey.oslocate.android&hl=en
    Probably a version at the fruit shop.
    Especially useful if you don't have access to OS mapping. No internet signal required.
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