Are you lost and in need of police help? "There's an app for that," say North Van RCMP

North Vancouver

2021-03-09 09:20 PST

Three words was all it took for North Vancouver RCMP to locate a group of hikers recently lost on a remote summit in the North Shore Mountains. What began as a leisurely mid-week hike soon took a turn for the worse when the group became lost. "Thankfully, they still had some battery left on their cell phone," said Sgt. Peter DeVries of the North Vancouver RCMP. "The dispatcher sent the hiker a text message containing a link. The hiker clicked the link and read out the three words displayed, and the dispatcher was then able to pinpoint their location to within a 3 metre square." That allowed rescuers to quickly get to them and provide help, said DeVries. "As far as we know, this is the first recorded use of what3words in an emergency response in British Columbia."

A location-based addressing system, what3words has divided the surface of the earth into 3 metre squares and assigned each square a unique combination of three randomly chosen words: a "what3words address". For example, ///wacky.rainfall.indirect is the what3words address of a 3m square along the Lynn Peak hiking trail. "It's fast, accurate, user friendly, and it's free." said DeVries.

The app represents another step forward in using technology to modernise operations at the Detachment. "When we get a call from someone who doesn’t know where they are and are in need of police help, this offer us a faster, more accurate way to find them and get to them quickly," said DeVries. "Our jurisdictions include some remote areas both on land and on water, and it will definitely be helpful for people lost in those areas," said DeVries. "But there are other applications for people who call 911 but don’t know exactly where they are. Whether it's a lost child with a cell phone, someone on a sinking boat up Indian Arm, or a person out for a walk in an unfamiliar neighbourhood who witnesses a crime in progress, all they will have to do is click a link, and we'll be able to pinpoint where they are."

The app will also help police locate people who have become lost or injured in the North Shore Mountains, "We receive dozens of 911 calls each year for lost, injured or missing hikers, skiers and snowboarders. When conditions in the mountains are quickly deteriorating, and the battery on your cell phone is about to die, those seconds can make all the difference. what3words will help us to provide rescuers with accurate GPS coordinates."

That said, Police are warning outdoor enthusiasts not to view this app as a catch-all safety net. "Don't depend on your phone to save your life," he said. "You need your ten essentials, you have to tell someone where you're going and when you'll be back, you have to know the risks you're facing and properly prepare." He adds that people who do find themselves in trouble should call 911 immediately. "Don't hesitate. If it turns out you don’t need to be rescued, it's better to be safe than sorry. And if you do need rescuing, know that help will come for you no matter what."

Sgt. Peter DeVries will have media availability today, March 9, 2021, at 1:00 p.m. at the north end of the running track in Mahon Park, to demonstrate the app's function and provide media clips. (w3w location: ///episodes.itself.remote)

(Click here for higher resolution photo)

Know Before You Go:

As a close partner of the North Vancouver RCMP, AdventureSmart offers national safety and prevention programs to Canadians and visitors to Canada who participate in outdoor recreational activities. The following tips will help keep you safe when heading into the mountains.
Whether your activity is during the summer or winter, on land or water, remember the three T's and follow these simple steps:

Trip Planning
View their online resource portal
• Plan your travel route
• Know the terrain and conditions
• Check the weather
• Always fill out a trip plan

• Obtain the knowledge and skills you need before heading out.
• Know and stay within your limits.

Taking the Essentials
Always carry the essentials and know how to use them:
• Flashlight
• Fire making kit
• Signalling device (i.e. whistle)
• Extra food and water
• Extra clothing
• Navigational/communication devices
• First aid kit
• Emergency blanket/shelter
• Pocket knife
• Sun protection

Add other equipment specific to your chosen activity, season and location.

Trip Tips and More Advice…
Travel with a companion: A companion can give you a hand to overcome difficulties or emergencies.
Be prepared: Ensure everyone with you understands what to do in case of an emergency.
Don't depend solely on technology: Equipment failure and lack of reception are very possible in the outdoors. Consider carrying a map and compass as a backup.

In An Emergency

Don't panic. Stay calm and maintain a positive attitude.
Sit, Think, Observe and Plan.
Stay put
It reduces time and search area for the authorities looking for you.
Seek shelter
Protect yourself from the elements by staying warm and dry.
Signal for help

Think BIG, Think CONTRAST, Think 3's.
• Create a ground-to-air symbol by making the letter "V" or "SOS", at least 3 meters in length.
• Use whistle blasts x 3, mirror flashes x 3, horn blasts x 3, signal fires x 3 or rock piles x 3 to signal distress.

Released by

Sgt. Peter DeVries
Media Relations Officer
North Vancouver RCMP (English only)
147 East 14th St, North Van., BC, V7L 2N4
Office: 604-969-7561
Cell: 604-363-5584
Fax: 604-969-7587


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