Emergency Services in Northumberland deploy innovative location technology app to enhance response

Northumberland County – June 23, 2021 – When directing first responders to your location in an emergency, three words may prove to be lifesaving. Local emergency services are encouraging people to download the what3words app, which uses an innovative grid-based address system to help first responders pinpoint a caller’s exact location and reach them with minimal delay.

what3words is being adopted by emergency services around the world as a tool to dispatch first responders to the precise location of a caller in need of help. Every 3-metre square in the world has been given a unique combination of three words: a what3words address that never changes. For example, ///plopped.legions.dogged will deliver you to Presqu’ile Point Lighthouse in Brighton, whereas ///study.swirly.reach is the unique address for a 3-meter square of waterfront along Port Hope’s West Beach. 9-1-1 callers simply give their what3words address from the app, and first responders will immediately be dispatched to their exact location.

Through tiered response protocols, all fire, paramedic and police services in Northumberland are now able to jointly leverage the benefits of the what3words app in local emergency response. They join emergency services in communities like Peterborough and Owen Sound – where rollouts of this location technology were announced in April – along with several other services across Ontario in adopting this app.

The app works both on- and offline, with the offline functionality making it ideal for use in rural areas that might have a poor internet connection, such as remote nature areas that are enjoyed by hikers and tourists. All the app requires to display a what3words address is a GPS signal, with a phone’s location services switched on and a clear line of sight to the sky for a GPS lock.

The free what3words app can be downloaded from app stores for iOS and Android. In addition to the app, people can use the online map.


“In a rural community like Northumberland, we have a multitude of isolated roads, farm fields, vast areas for hiking and outdoor recreation – people who are lost or injured may find themselves in difficult to describe locations, with limited landmarks to orient themselves. In these situations, this tool will enable local emergency services to shift from reliance on a caller’s visual cues and memory to use of precise global positioning data, quickly delivering help where and when it is needed.” Gene Thompson, Deputy Fire Chief, Cobourg Fire Department and Northumberland County Fire Coordinator (Alternate)

“Rapid response is vital in an emergency. Using the what3words app will help first responders save precious time in delivering critical aid. We encourage residents to download this app as an important step in emergency preparedness.” Susan Brown, Chief, Northumberland Paramedics

“At the Cobourg Police Service, we are always looking for innovative ways to serve our community better. I am confident utilizing this app will eliminate time lost when callers struggle to provide their location. Those three words will ensure we quickly reach those in need of our help when every second is crucial.” Paul VandeGraaf, Chief, Cobourg Police Service.

“The Port Hope Police Service along with other emergency services providers in Northumberland County are urging our citizens to download onto their smart devices the what3words application. The app works offline and can provide emergency services your exact location in areas where cell phone coverage is poor. This app provides the user with a 3-word unique location identifier to assist callers to receive emergency assistance when they require.” Bryant Wood, Chief, Port Hope Police Service

“The Ontario Provincial Police Provincial Communications Centre (PCC) has integrated this new technology into their existing mapping system and location protocols. It is another excellent tool in the toolbox to assist emergency services in reuniting lost or injured people with their families or sending emergency resources where they may be required.” Inspector Jeff Martin, Detachment Commander, Northumberland OPP

“Every month, people all around the world struggle to communicate their location to emergency services. This leads to crucial minutes and sometimes hours lost when trying to save lives. It’s exciting to hear that the Emergency Services in Northumberland are starting to use what3words and we are looking forward to working with them as they embrace new technologies, like ours, to help save lives.” Chris Sheldrick, CEO, what3words