Three words that could save your life are as close as your smartphone

News / General

Get this emergency response app ASAP, advises ambulance dispatch service at Kingston Health Sciences Centre

As experts in responding with lightning speed in an emergency, Kingston Central Ambulance Communications Centre (CACC) at Kingston Health Sciences Centre (KHSC) hardly wasted a minute in implementing a smart new app and it advises you to do likewise. 

KHSC's ambulance dispatch service, CACC has teamed up with Kingston Fire & Rescue (KFR) and Kingston Police to encourage everyone to download what3words, a free and potentially life-saving smartphone application that helps emergency responders find you when you cannot pinpoint your own location.

Developed by a UK-based company, the what3words app assigns a unique three-word combination to every 3m by 3m square on Earth.

Users can identify exactly where they are by opening the app and reading the corresponding three words to an emergency responder at the other end of a distress call.  While the app requires that a smartphone’s location services be enabled, it does not track a user’s location unless the app is open nor does it save previously visited places. The app works offline, too.

First ambulance dispatch service in Canada to adopt app

Kingston is the first community in Canada where the police, fire and ambulance dispatch services have worked together to simultaneously introduce the application to residents.  And CACC is the first ambulance dispatch service in the country to use the tool, says CACC Director Mark Halladay.

“We’re very excited to be the leader with this app,” he says. “It will save time and lives because it lets our Ambulance Communications Officers [ACOs] collect critical information that much faster from anyone calling 911. It means we can be absolutely specific about where we’re sending paramedics.”

ACOs are the emergency response experts who stay on the line with you to obtain vital medical details for emergency services en route, often dispensing life-saving instructions before paramedics arrive. CACC dispatches ambulances for 29 ambulance bases across 48 municipalities in our region.

Making every second count

“Every second counts during those phone calls,” says Halladay.  “Callers can be upset, confused and physically lost if they’re out in the bush or on an unfamiliar road at night.  Anything that helps that person to focus on the right information in turn helps us to focus on getting assistance to them.”

Along with KFR and Kingston Police, CACC put the what3words app through its paces during a recent exercise on Wolfe Island and were impressed with its accuracy, speed and potential to save lives, explains Halladay, adding that CACC has invested in new software called EmergencyLocate that works to enable the what3words app.

“We encourage everyone to download the app,” he urges.  “You never know when you might need it.”

You can download what3words on your smartphone at