Oct 5, 2022 - News

Dallas adds location tracking to 911 response

Illustration of a car on a blank map

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Dallas is adopting new technology that will enable 911 callers to convey their precise location to first responders and get help quicker.

Driving the news: The Dallas Police Department, which staffs the city's 911 dispatch center, announced Friday that police and fire officials decided to adopt the "what3words" geocode system after a successful trial run.

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 iPhones 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 Dallas can provide the code to their call taker if they have trouble explaining where they are.

The intrigue: App creators say it works in areas with no phone signal.

What they're saying: "Being able to get a location quickly is everything in an emergency situation, because time is crucial," Dallas police Chief Eddie Garcia says.

  • "An additional tool like what3words will help us find a location quickly and respond to an emergency faster to get help to those who need it."

Of note: U.K. officials used what3words to tell mourners where to queue up to pay respects to the late Queen Elizabeth II.

  • Although the intent was to help the large crowds, a "minor administration error" led to the app briefly telling people the line started in California and North Carolina.

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

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