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What3words app helps locate couple lost while hiking

'It was getting dark, their cellphone had spotty reception and they were cold,' South Simcoe police says of Sunday's incident in Bradford
20220418 South Simcoe Police
South Simcoe Police Service file photo

The what3words app is being credited with helping to locate a Bradford couple who got lost while hiking on Sunday. 

At approximately 6:45 p.m., March 5, South Simcoe police were called to Scanlon Creek Conservation Area on Line 9 in Bradford West Gwillimbury by a couple who got lost while hiking at the park.

The caller said that he and his girlfriend, both of whom are in their early 20s, had been walking around for about three hours.

"It was getting dark, their cellphone had spotty reception and they were cold," police said in a news release. 

The police department's 911 communicators instructed the man to download the what3words app, which is a geo-location tool that assigns a unique three-word code to every three-by-three-metre square on Earth.

"Working together, the communications team and the man used the app to find the couple's exact location, which was approximately 500 metres northwest of the north entrance of the forest off Line 10," police said. 

Officers attended and the "relieved couple" was brought to safety within 34 minutes of the 911 call. The 911 communicators had stayed on the line with them the entire time, keeping them calm and positive.

In an emergency situation, police say the what3words geo-locating app will help communicators pinpoint the caller's whereabouts so that officers can quickly respond to where help is needed. The app is to be used when a street address is unavailable.

Police say a municipal address is still the best way to ensure a quick response.

Every three-metre square in the world has been given a unique combination of three words — essentially a what3words address. The system can be used via the free app for both iOS and Android or via the online map at and is available in over 40 languages.

The app works offline, making it ideal for use in rural areas of Canada that might have a poor or unreliable internet connection.