Oct 7, 2022 - News

Location finding app to aid Austin EMS response at ACL

Illustration of a car on a blank map

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

A location sharing app gaining popularity in the U.S. will help aid emergency response efforts during the Austin City Limits Music Festival.

Driving the news: Austin-Travis County EMS official recommended festival-goers download the what3words app to assist 911 responders in finding the precise location of someone in a crowd.

Why it matters: Started by a London-based startup, the free tool simplifies how people can share their location in an emergency.

How it works: What3words can be downloaded on iPhone and Android devices, or accessed through a web browser.

  • The tool divides the world into three-meter squares and gives each square a three-word name.
  • People dialing 911 in Austin can provide the code to their call taker if they have trouble explaining where they are.

What they're saying: "That's the first piece of the puzzle: Where are you?" Captain Darren Noak with Austin-Travis County EMS told Axios.

  • What3words makes it easier to relay a location, rather than numbers, by phone or radio, according to Noak.
  • Even if a user doesn't have the app, emergency officials can text a link to a 911 caller or quickly locate the caller's number and estimated location using the city's enhanced 911 system. Dispatch then uses the what3words unique identifier to share the precise location with the emergency response team.
  • EMS officials most commonly use the location technology during water or wilderness rescues, Noak said.

What's next: Subaru and Jaguar Land Rover plan to integrate the technology into some vehicles.


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