Skipton woman who had driven into rising water rescued thanks to 'What3words' smartphone app

High river levels in Hebden Bridge this weekend
High river levels in Hebden Bridge this weekend
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North Yorkshire Police have rescued a woman who had driven into floodwater this morning - thanks to a new smartphone app.

The woman was described as 'shocked and distressed' when she became trapped in rising water in the early hours of this morning near Skipton.

She was unable to give police her location, and call handlers sent a link to the 'What3words' app to her phone.

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The app then sent details of her location and officers were sent to the scene to assist her.

What is What3words?

It's a geocoding app that you can download to your smartphone free of charge.

Although it was launched in 2013, you may have noticed emergency services suddenly talking about it a lot in safety campaigns.

That's because 35 police forces across the UK only signed up to it in August 2019.

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It's really useful for rescues in isolated areas because the system relies on a fixed algorithm rather than a large database of every location on earth. This means it works on devices with limited storage and can still be used if there is no internet coverage or phone signal.

It generates revenue because private companies which require large amounts of usage are charged, but it's free for most users.

Stories of other successful rescues enabled by the app have already emerged since it went live.

Soon after Durham Police adopted it, a group of friends in their 20s were saved from Hamsterley Forest in County Durham after becoming lost during a walk.

They managed to dial 999 when they found enough signal and were told immediately to download the app. A mountain rescue team was sent to find them.

You do need signal to download the app initially, so it's worth doing so before you find yourself needing help. However, it can then ping your location to someone without signal coverage.

South Yorkshire Police also used What3words to find a 65-year-old man who became trapped after falling down a railway embankment in Sheffield,

Humberside Police even rescued a hostage after she used the app to communicate where she was being held, and a group of immigrants, including a woman in labour, who were trapped inside a shipping container in one of the Humber ports containing over 20,000 of the containers.