Hikers, mountain bikers, encouraged to download ‘what3words’ location app

Jun 28, 2023, 6:37 PM | Updated: 6:42 pm

SALT LAKE COUNTY, Utah — Two Utah cities are trying to spread the word about a location app that helps search and rescue teams quickly find people who need help.

The app is called “what3words.” Instead of lengthy GPS coordinates, it provides users with a three-word code to pinpoint a precise location.

“We divided the world into 3-meter squares and gave each square a unique combination of three words,” reads a company website description. “It’s the easiest way to find and share exact locations.”

For example, one of Sandy’s entrances to the Bell Canyon Trail has the three-word combination of love, cage, and arch.

The fire departments in Sandy and Draper are teaming up to install signs at trailheads with QR codes to encourage hikers to download the app before heading into the canyons.

“They can quickly access the app, give the 911 center what the three words are, and then that gets relayed to us, and we can use that map to come right to you,” explained Sandy Fire Chief Jeff Bassett. “This just gives us three simple words, and we don’t need to worry about if someone can’t understand the latitude or longitude of the map.”

Signs of the QR code that will be placed on trails for hikers to download. (KSL TV)

The Draper City Fire Department said location confusion can lead to lost time during a rescue mission.

“Up Corner Canyon, when people are mountain biking or hiking, they’ll start off on one trail, and they’ll know which trail they start off on, but several of these trails crisscross, and they end up on a different trail and don’t realize it,” said Kevin Holt, administrative Battalion Chief for Draper City Fire Department.

Holt said 911 dispatchers can send the three words over the radio to search and rescue team members or directly to their computers, tablets, and phones.

“The times that we’ve been able to use it successfully, it has taken us right to the patient,” he said.

Draper and Sandy said the trailhead signs would be installed in the coming weeks and that the app is free for the cities to use and free for people to download.

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Hikers, mountain bikers, encouraged to download ‘what3words’ location app