AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin-Travis County EMS has been busy as can be since the ice storm swept through Central Texas last week.
While its emergency service workers have been saving lives around the clock, they’ve been using an app to pinpoint the precise location people who need medical attention.
What3Words is a free, location-based app that divides the globe into 10-foot squares, assigning each square a unique three-word sequence, like ‘folk.suitable.chart.’
According to chief marketing officer of what3words, Giles Rhys Jones, you can give those words to first responders, so they know where you are.
“In Austin, you can simply say the what3words address of where you are or where help is needed,” he said. “They will know exactly where to find you.”
What3Words is based-on GPS coordinates, so it isn’t reliant on cell service or Wi-Fi.
That provided a huge help for folks whose power lines had been knocked down last week.
Through the app, EMS also marked the location of homeless encampments.
ATCEMS Captain Darren Noak said medics were able to warn those experiencing homelessness of the impending ice storm and the resources available, such as cold weather shelters and warming centers.
“The app allowed our medics to get out there, make contact with persons experiencing homelessness and then log their location,” he said. “In case we needed to follow up with them for any needs that they might have.”
During the late-December cold snap, when temperatures drop into the teens, EMS used the app to help move hundreds of people experiencing homelessness into warming centers.
Along with aiding first responders during natural disasters, the app is also commonly used at Austin’s major events such as ACL, Formula 1 Race and South by Southwest.