It’s difficult to imagine a world without GPS technology. Getting lost in a strange city is a thing of the past. Sure, there is the occasional story of some not-so-clever driver adhering to the instructions of the device even as it veered them off the road and into a lake (true story … but we all make mistakes!).
For those of us who live, work, or play in more remote areas of the globe, the idea of using a location app or GPS may not seem quite as vital. Yet for one young equestrian in rural England, the free location app What3Words proved a lifesaver.
Ashleigh Compton, 27, of Somerset, was out riding her horse, Sparks, in the countryside when a loose dog attacked them. The dog kept biting at the horse’s legs and Compton, afraid of her horse spooking, dismounted. She didn’t anticipate that the dog would turn on her, but that’s what happened.
Speaking to a reporter for PA Media, Compton describes what happened next:
“I was quite badly hurt from the dog after it started biting and scratching at me. My only option was to grab Sparks and make a run for it – hoping the dog wouldn’t chase us. Luckily, it worked, but the running and panic set off my asthma.”
The asthma attack was a brutal one, and even her inhaler that she always carries did nothing to alleviate her symptoms. Instead, Compton found herself back at the stable, alone and unable to breathe. She turned to the What3Words app that she had downloaded long before the incident. She also called the 9-9-9 operator (the UK equivalent to 9-1-1) but her farm was tough to find.
“The 999 operator couldn’t figure out where I was and I could barely speak through my asthma attack,” Compton said. “When the penny dropped that I had the app, I read out the three words to him and he told me that he knew exactly where I was and that he was organizing for paramedics to get there.”
As it turned out, a passerby – who coincidentally was a doctor – found Compton and brought her to a hospital where she received urgent medical care. But the app had done its job.
There have been many other instances where riders and hikers have been injured or stranded, and unable to get help, passed away. The software engineers behind What3Words divided the world into three-metre squares and have given each a unique ID combination of three words. It’s ‘these three words’ that pinpoint your location to an emergency service, a friend, anyone who can view the app. You can also speak the words into the app and send it that way.
Compton hopes all riders who hack out alone will download the app, as it can be the difference between life and death. As for the off-leash dog and its owner, she’s still hoping to find them and explain the seriousness of what happened.