Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office uses innovative technology to locate callers in distress

The Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office integrated what3words in May 2021.

what3words is an easy way to talk about location, as every 10ft square in the world has been given a unique combination of three words, called a what3words address.

  • For example///bash.cabbies.became will take you to a square on Crab Island.

Within the first few weeks of operation, the system had already proven its value multiple times, including when it was used to locate overturned kayakers on the Shoal River.

The technology was also used to save the life of a woman suffering a medical episode on Okaloosa Island who was unable to speak and give her location.

  • The woman in question used 9-1-1 to call from her multi-story hotel in Okaloosa Island.
  • Because the communications team had adopted emergency response data platform RapidSOS, which recently integrated what3words, the caller’s what3words address was automatically sent to the team.

Prior to using what3words, heavy resources would have to be dispatched – such as a large search and rescue team – in order to locate the incident. However, thanks to what3words, the team was able to quickly and accurately pinpoint the distressed caller’s locations, and rapidly deploy resources.

“Being able to use what3words has made a huge difference to our operations,” said Audrey Adams, Communications Assistant Director at Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office. “For anyone who finds themselves lost, injured or in need of help in an unfamiliar location, trying to communicate where help is needed by just using visual descriptions of what they can see, or the direction they were trying to head in, can be very stressful.”

According to Adams, OCSO emergency communication center teams can now ask for a precise what3words address.

  • In most cases, callers what3words address will be sent automatically to emergency control center operators through RapidSOS but having the what3words app downloaded is an excellent backup.

The app works offline making it ideal for use in remote areas that might have a poor internet connection, such as state parks, beaches and lakes.

The Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office is encouraging members of the public to download the free app and be ready to provide their what3words address should they find themselves in an emergency.

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