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New Technology Can Now Pinpoint Emergency Calls In Seconds Via App Or Text

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – It can be terrifying calling 911 in an emergency, especially when you don't have an address to give. But new technology called what3words can now pinpoint emergency calls in seconds using an app or a text straight to your cellphone.

Last April, a pair of Los Angeles hikers ventured off a trail and got lost, and what3words led rescuers to their exact location.

A dispatcher told the hikers they'd receive a text message with a link, and they should click the link and read the three words on the screen. Those were "heavy," "send" and "career."

Within seconds, LA Fire pinpointed the remote site. The new technology divides the entire globe into 57 trillion 10-by-10-foot squares, each with its own unique set of three random words as its address.

"Right now, we can see the dot on the map, but without what3words, we can't describe it in English. We have to use very long - a series of numbers or letters in order to do that. But if you just have to enter three English words, it's like entering an address. So, we were able to really speed up the call processing time," said LAFD Chief Intelligence Officer Scott Porter.

Nationwide, the average emergency response time is about 10 minutes, rising to 14 minutes in rural areas.

Now, help comes sooner.

"The ones that it really helps get there a lot quicker is our helicopters, our air assets, a​nd they're able to input it into their system, and they're able to fly directly to that location and get overhead," said LAFD firefighter and dispatcher Steven Marczinko.

Callers who have the app on their phones can quickly give their three-word location to 911. But even without the app, dispatchers can still zero in on a call.

"Even if you're offline with no data, you can still get the three words for where you are. If you don't have the app on your phone, they do have a way to send you an SMS, which will take you to a web page, where you can get the three words," said what3words CEO Chris Sheldrick.

What3words is also used in a few smaller emergency agencies in the U.S. and more widely in other countries in more than 30 languages.

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