Austin 911 dispatchers use app to locate people in remote areas

Three words may help save you in an emergency. The City of Austin Communications Department is using an app that makes it easier for first responders to locate someone.

"So it really takes the search out of search and rescue," Austin Police Department Lt Ken Murphy said.

The What3Words app divides the entire world into 10 by 10 squares, each square has three random words associated with it.

"With location information stored, they were able to create these algorithms that provide us super accurate information where seconds count," Austin 911 Operator Amy Anderson said.

Lt. Murphy said it’s more accurate and easier to use than GPS coordinates.

"There are times where there is no dispatchable location, meaning there is no address," Lt. Murphy said.

The three words can help identify an exact location for first responders, even if the caller can’t identify where they are.

"I can go into a satellite view from there, and even from there, I can drag this guy right here," Anderson said. "You can actually put yourself in the location and have eyes in a way you wouldn't have been able to before."

Austin Communications started using the app in February, ahead of South by Southwest. Not only does it help law enforcement, friends and family can use it between themselves, too.

"They can get their location, say these are my three words, your other friend with the app who's on the other side of Barton Springs maybe, can type in those three words, hit the navigate button and walk right to where they are," Anderson said.

Whether it be on the lake, hiking on or off a trail, or in a big crowd at a concert, this navigation and GPS system can help. Law enforcement is asking community members to download the free app.