This App Helped Firefighters Find Missing Teen Girls in Tennessee — What Families Should Know

The What3words app divides the world into 3-meter squares and identifies specific locations using a unique combination of three words

What3Words app
What3Words app. Photo: What3Words app

Authorities in Tennessee are crediting a phone app for saving the lives of two teenage girls after it helped find their location when they were lost in a park.

The Murfreesboro Police Department addressed the incident in a press release, suggesting that had it not been for the What3words location app, things might have turned out very different for the two teens.

Authorities said they were called to Barfield Park on Saturday around 8:45 p.m. after receiving a 911 call from the teens reporting that they were lost.

According to police, the girls said they had spent an hour after nightfall trying to get back to their vehicle using Google maps but were unable to do so.

Though the Murfreesboro Fire Rescue Department (MFRD) was later called to the scene with all-terrain vehicles and a drone with infrared technology to assist with the search, it was ultimately the What3words app that helped firefighters spot the teens.

According to the app's website, What3words divides the world into 3-meter squares and identifies specific locations using a unique combination of three words. Used by millions of people around the world, the free app prides itself on being "the easiest way to find and share
exact locations," as well as helping to make life "safer, more efficient and less frustrating."

"Street addresses weren't designed for 2021. They aren't accurate enough to specify precise locations, such as building entrances, and don't exist for parks and many rural areas. This makes it hard to find places and prevents people from describing exactly where help is needed in an emergency," the site reads. "That's why we created What3words."

The app's theory certainly proved true on Saturday after responding firefighters learned that one of the girls had What3words on her cell phone.

After arriving at the park, crew members used the app and were able to pinpoint the location of the girls around 9:26 p.m., police said.

Because of the app, no drones were required in the search, according to the press release. The teens were also not injured, police confirmed.

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"They were approximately three-quarters of a mile from the location they entered the trails hours before," MFRD Battalion Chief Jamie Bigelow said in a statement. "Both girls were brought out by all-terrain vehicles. They thanked firefighters for helping to locate them."

Following the incident, Murfreesboro Emergency Communications Director Seth Russell confirmed that the Emergency Communications Centeris planning to have training for the What3words app completed by the end of September.

"The use of the groundbreaking location technology what3words is being implemented in the Murfreesboro Emergency Communications Center soon," said Russell. "This is a valuable tool to aid 9-1-1 operators and first responders in locating anyone who finds themselves lost, injured, or in need of help in an unfamiliar location."

What3words is currently available on the App Store and on Google Play. Those interested in learning more about its functionality can do so here.

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