Many people visit West Coast to experience its soaring mountains and forested trails. But for those new to the area, or who haven’t fully prepared for the adventure, it can be easy to get lost in the B.C. backcountry.
Now, three words are all it takes for RCMP to nail down the location of a lost and injured hiker or skier – thanks to a phone app that syncs their GPS coordinates.
And those stranded in the B.C. backcountry don’t need to have the app downloaded to reap its life-saving benefits.
All they have to do is call 9-1-1.
What3Words – first created in the U.K. in July 2013 – does the rest.
“All you have to do is click the link to provide the information to our 9-1-1 dispatcher,” explains RCMP Sgt. Peter DeVries.
The app pinpoints the person’s phone location to a three-metre range.
What3Words “divided the earth up into a gridwork of three-metre squares, each assigned a random sequence of three words. Those three words label the square in which a person is standing,” Devries says.
This month, North Vancouver RCMP used the app’s algorithm to find hikers stranded in the North Shore mountains.
Officers forwarded app coordinates to search and rescue crews who were able to quickly reach the group and provide help, DeVries says.
Other B.C. first responders who’ve reported using the app include Surrey Regional Fire Dispatch and Squamish Search and Rescue.
Whether it’s a lost child with a cell phone, someone on a sinking boat up Indian Arm or a person stifled by witnessing a crime, Devries said, “all they have to do is click a link and we’ll be able to pinpoint where they are.”
What3Words has been credited to saving the lives of outdoor enthusiasts in countries including the United States, Australia and Scotland.
The app’s functions are dependant upon a person’s mobile phone having access to cell service.
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