OTTAWA -- First responders in Kingston are making use of a smartphone app that can provide a more precise location when a street address isn't available, and they're encouraging residents to download it.

What3words is a UK-based company that has developed an app of the same name that assigns a three-word phrase to every 3m x 3m plot of land on Earth. Users open the app and can give police, paramedics or firefighters the three words for their particular location, which can help first responders narrow down where they are.

Location services must be enabled for the app to work, but it can also work offline. According to the company, if you have no signal, you can still find your three-word address by pressing the "locate" button on the app. Each 3m x 3m area's three-word address is always the same.

The company says there are no tracking capabilities within the app and the only way someone can see your location is if you share it.

“We live in a beautiful region, with a lot of dirt roads and wild spaces to explore. But in these areas civic addresses can be difficult to find and directions can be challenging to give,” says Kim Smith, supervisor of Kingston Fire & Rescue's communications division. “In an emergency, when a caller is distressed and not sure about location, every second counts. What3words provides us with the location information needed to get help to you as quickly as possible.” 

Kingston Police and Kingston's Central Ambulance Communications Centre are also adopting the app. Kingston is the first community in Canada where all three emergency services have worked together to introduce the app to residents.

You can download what3words on your smartphone at