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What3Words App Connects LAFD To People In Need Of Help Faster

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LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — A new app is helping Los Angeles firefighters reach emergency situations a little faster.

The Los Angeles Fire Department, which gets 1,000 calls for help daily, officially adopted the app “what3words” in July.

Traditionally, most geographical locations are identifiable through latitude and longitude. What the app’s technology does is assign a unique set of three random words to each geographical location so that emergency responders can find them much faster.

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“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 series of numbers and letters in order to do that,” said Chief Scott Porter, LAFD’s chief intelligence officer. “But if you just have to answer three English words, it’s like entering an address. So we were able to really speed up the call processing time.”

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The LAFD has built what3words into its computer-aided dispatch system, which helps pinpoint an incident precisely even if there’s no address. This is particularly helpful for hikers who need help. The app still works if the caller doesn’t have the three words – the dispatcher can send the caller a text message with a link, which when clicked, opens up a page that shows the caller’s current what3words location.

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The app is free on iOS and Android and is available in more than 30 languages.

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