App to offer citizens option to send location to police

Written by Jenni Davidson on 12 March 2021 in News

Officers and the public in Scotland can now use the what3words technology

An image of the What3Words app in use on a smartphone    Credit: Piqsels

People who get lost in a remote or rural area can now use a mobile phone app to identify their location when calling Police Scotland on 999 or 101.

The what3words app divides the world into 3x3 metre squares using GPS coordinates and gives each square a unique set of three words. Users can then communicate their location by giving the three words even if they do not know where they are, are in an unfamiliar area, rural location or one that is difficult to describe.

The app, which is free of charge to members of the public, emergency services and charities, is already being used by the majority of emergency services across the UK, including the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and Scottish Ambulance Service. Police also plan to use the app to support local incidents and pre-planned operations and events.

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Use of the app will be an additional option rather than replacing existing methods of giving a location. Police Scotland call handlers will still ask for a postal address as default when someone calls 999 or 101.

Superintendent Iain MacLelland of the Digitally Enabled Policing Programme said: “What3words will help frontline police officers and staff to locate members of the public quickly when they are calling from an unknown or rural area. The introduction of what3words is a great additional resource for our communities and our officers who serve them. It’s also important to highlight that, when Covid-19 restrictions begin to ease, we know that people may want to venture further from home, to remote or rural locations.What3words does not change the requirement to ensure that you are properly prepared if heading to the hills, always have a map and compass and ensure that you have your route planned out in advance.”


About the author

Jenni Davidson is a journalist at PublicTechnology sister publication Holyrood, where a version of this story first appeared. She tweets as @HolyroodJenni.

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