One of the biggest problems facing our first responders or anyone dealing with an emergency
call in this “everybody uses a mobile phone era” is “where are you?” Delay in getting an
actionable answer to that question could result in a loss of life or a needless waste of valuable
resources. Thanks for some forward-looking individuals at Tallapoosa County 9-1-1 along with
other agencies; Tallapoosa County has implemented a system that greatly speeds determining
the location of a 911 mobile phone caller. The app for your phone is called “What3words” and
the software at the 911 center is called RapidSOS. These pieces of software combine to provide
the 911 center your location instantly. What the hiking and boating public needs to do is get
the app “What3words” installed on as many mobile phones as possible. The process is already
well underway for all first responders to have this app available so they can readily react to
your emergency call.
This new app, when opened, immediately shows you your location and provides a simple 3
word “tag” for your location. You can refine that location if needed by selecting another 10
foot square shown on the screen. The app using words instead of the usual GPS latitude and
longitude since it is easier to communicate via words instead of a string of 12 numbers and
dots. With a couple of simple clicks you can pull up Google maps and that will give you a way to
navigate to that location (if for instance someone gives you their location using the 3 words)
quickly. Also, it gives you standard latitude and longitude on the Google maps screen if you
need that information. Yes, there are already methods of accomplishing the same result
however it is much harder to explain to someone that is not ‘tech savvy’.
The first responders in our area recommend that everyone get this app installed on their phone
and become familiar with how the app works. It could save you a lot of time when you have a
reportable emergency on the lake or while hiking our many trails around Lake Martin.
Comments from Mike Eubanks, 9-1-1 GIS Coordinator:
Over the past few weeks, Tallapoosa County 9-1-1, along with the Tallapoosa County Sheriff’s Office and
Alexander City Police Department have been in the process of implementing RapidSOS. RapidSOS is a
location and information portal provided free of charge to public safety dispatch centers.
One of the features included with RapidSOS is “what3words”. What3words is a platform that uses three
words instead of numbered coordinates for location. The creators of what3words have taken the entire
world and divided it into 10ft-by-10ft squares. Each square contains three words unique to that square.
When someone calls 9-1-1 from a cell phone, the dispatchers will be provided with not only address and
coordinate information, but the what3words location as well.