St. Catharines Fire Service, dispatch using innovative location app to locate people in need of assistance
City of St. Catharines Web Site

Three words is all it can take to help emergency services find you in the event of an emergency, thanks to a new tool being launched to fire departments served by the City of St. Catharines fire dispatch. 

The new technology, known as what3words, is a free app, or online map at, that generates a unique three-word identified to pinpoint someone’s location if they are unaware of their location and require assistance. Emergency services can then accurately and quickly be dispatched to the precise location of an incident. The technology will be used by St. Catharines Fire Services, along with the 11 other fire departments which use the St. Catharines emergency dispatch service.

“When an individual is in distress, time can truly mean the difference between life and death and one of the most important things to assist emergency responders is the exact location. In an emergency it is not always easy and every minute counts,” said St. Catharines Fire Chief Jeff McCormick. “St. Catharines and our dispatch departments are fortunate to have trails, parks, greenspaces, as well as rural expanses, so having innovative technology like what3words will assist first responders in the event of an emergency.”

To get the three-word identifier, the location technology divides the world into a grid of 3-metre x 3-metre squares and assigns each square with a unique three-word identifier. The encoding is permanently fixed and is more reliable than GPS technology. Using a what3words address gives those calling dispatch a simple way to describe the precise location where help is needed, particularly where there may be no street address or obvious landmarks. The grid area covers land, as well as water.

For example, ///file.zipped.wide will take you to the pavilion at Montebello Park in St. Catharines. If you move three metres from that point, you would then get three new words from the tool.

The service will be available in St. Catharines, as well as to the departments served through its dispatch centre, including:

  • Grimsby
  • Lincoln
  • Niagara-on-the-Lake
  • Pelham
  • Port Colborne
  • Thorold
  • Wainfleet
  • Welland
  • West Lincoln
  • Haldimand County and
  • Norfolk County.

St. Catharines Fire Services joins emergency services and dispatch call centres around the globe using the UK-based technology which covers the entire world and never needs updating. The technology, available for iOS and Android or through the online map, continues to expand across the globe due to its ease and success. No registration is required, and there are no tracking capabilities in the app.

“This is a great opportunity to be progressive and enhance our level of service to our communities. The current process, based on addressing of the call, will still be the first priority for dispatch. The what3words app offers an additional tool where further location honing beyond the address will assist responders in locating the caller,” said Chief McCormick. “We encourage everyone in the areas serviced by St. Catharines Fire Services dispatch to download the free app to their mobile device, or bookmark the online map – it could save your life.”


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