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YORK REGIONAL POLICE NOW USING WHAT3WORDS APP TO ASSIST IN LOCATING PEOPLE LOST OR IN DISTRESS IN REMOTE AREAS

Posted on Friday February 25, 2022

York Regional Police is pleased to advise our community that we are now using the innovative location technology what3words and we are urging residents, especially those who enjoy the outdoors in remote or unpopulated locations, to download the app so our 9-1-1 call takers know exactly where to dispatch resources in situations where every second counts.

what3words has divided the world into a grid of 10-foot squares and given each square a unique combination of three random words: A what3words address. The app is free to download for both iOS and Android devices. It works offline, making it ideal for use in areas with an unreliable data connection. what3words can also be used via the online map at what3words.com.

The ability of this technology to locate people who are lost or in trouble, on Lake Simcoe or other waterways, hiking or snowmobile trails, rural properties, campsites or even driving in a snowstorm or while ice fishing, greatly increases the ability of members in our 9-1-1 Communications Centre to dispatch first responders quickly and effectively, potentially saving lives. There have been several recent examples where the use of this app allowed our officers to quickly locate a person in need of help.

On Saturday, February 19, 2022, at approximately 12:30 p.m, York Regional Police responded to a call from an ice fisher who was out on the ice with four children and had lost their bearings. Due to whiteout conditions they couldn’t see any huts or find the road. Fortunately, using what3words, officers were able to locate them and bring them to shore safely.

On June 24, 2021, shortly after 1:15 p.m., York Regional Police received a 9-1-1 call from a boater in distress on Lake Simcoe. Officers learned that three people rented a canoe and went out on Lake Simcoe. The wind carried them away from shore and they were unable to paddle back in. They could not swim and had begun to panic. They were unable to determine their location, making it difficult for Marine Unit officers to find them. It took officers almost 40 minutes to locate and rescue them. 

On October 3, 2021, we received a 9-1-1 call advising that three people were floating in an inflatable boat with a capsized kayak between North Gwillimbury Park and Sixth Line on Lake Simcoe. There was a heavy east wind, visibility was extremely limited due to fog and they were being pushed off the Georgina shore.  Our dispatcher sent the callers the what3words app, they then told the dispatcher the three words and officers were able to locate them in 14 minutes.  

The app reduces our response time drastically and as a result, the possibility of injury or death is also greatly reduced. Those needing assistance use the app, then verbally relay their location to the dispatcher directly.

The use of what3words app is part of the overall modernization of the 9-1-1 Communications Centre that includes redesigned training, staffing and supervision models in an effort to support members and build a framework for future growth.

A video on the marine unit and the use of the app can be found here: https://youtu.be/ObWVGNkl8eY

For more information, contact Corporate Communications at 1-866-876-5423, ext. 2664.

Prepared by: Constable Laura Nicolle

                         February 25, 2022