Father, 57, claims emergency geo-location app saved his life after he had heart attack on motorway

A father who suffered a heart attack while driving on the motorway with his son has claimed an emergency geo-location app saved his life.

Gary Mason, 57, from Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, knew he was in trouble when he began experiencing chest pains and asked son Joe, 22, to drive him to Alexandra Hospital.

On the journey the pain worsened and he lost feeling in his arm and was struggling to breathe, so he dialled 999.

As his condition rapidly worsened and he became disorientated, Gary found it difficult to speak to the call handler, so Joe pulled over and took the phone. 

Gary Mason, 57, from Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, who suffered a heart attack while driving on the motorway with his son Joe, 22, has claimed an emergency geo-location app saved his life (pictured together now)

Gary Mason, 57, from Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, who suffered a heart attack while driving on the motorway with his son Joe, 22, has claimed an emergency geo-location app saved his life (pictured together now)

It then dawned on him to check the what3words app, which he had downloaded after seeing it advertised on TV, to pinpoint their exact location. Thankfully his quick-thinking meant West Midlands Ambulance Service arrived in three minutes and saved Gary’s life.

Speaking to FEMAIL, Gary said: ‘Without what3words I would have died. While I was having a heart attack, Joe spent over 10 minutes trying to direct the emergency services to our location on the Bromsgrove highway. 

‘We were getting nowhere and time was of the essence. I have had cancer and two heart attacks in the past, so as soon as the pains started I recognised them from previous experiences.

‘I’m so proud of Joe because he’s very dyslexic and listening back to the 999 call, he was so calm and collected when reading out the what3words address. If anyone deserves a medal today it’s him.’

Joe added: ‘Being in the car with my dad while he was having a heart attack made me realise how important it is to be able to tell someone your exact location. 

When Gary's condition worsened, Joe pulled over and took over the phone. It dawned on him to give the 999 call handler their what3words location

When Gary’s condition worsened, Joe pulled over and took over the phone. It dawned on him to give the 999 call handler their what3words location

Joe used the app to pinpoint their exact location (pictured). Thankfully his quick-thinking meant West Midlands Ambulance Service arrived in three minutes and saved Gary's life

Joe used the app to pinpoint their exact location (pictured). Thankfully his quick-thinking meant West Midlands Ambulance Service arrived in three minutes and saved Gary’s life

‘Saving minutes, or even seconds can dramatically change the outcome of an emergency. My dad wouldn’t be here today if I wasn’t able to give the call handler our what3words address.’

Joe told how he first downloaded the app because he thought it would be a good thing to have when meeting up with friends and in case of emergencies.

The location app that could save your life – but how does it work?

What3words divides Earth into a grid of 57 trillion squares measuring 3 metres by 3 metres, with each box given a code devised by an algorithm consisting of three English words. 

For example, ‘laptop.processes.works’ will take you to the best view over Durdle Door in Devon. 

Nelson’s Column is situated in a square marked ‘this.fantastic.notes’, while Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh is tagged ‘maybe.sling.worth’ and the Statue of Liberty is at ‘then.drill.moth’.

The site uses shorter, more common words for built-up areas and more obscure references for remote locations such as Siberia and the middle of the ocean.

The app is free to download for both iOS and Android devices, and works offline, making it ideal for use in areas with unreliable data connection, such as beaches, national parks and campsites. what3words can also be used via the online map at what3words.com.

The technology is available in over 45 languages, including Welsh, and can be used anywhere in the world.   

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He also works for his father’s vehicle recovery business and found it was useful to tell customers to use what3words to make them easier to locate after a breakdown.   

‘A lot of the time people call from remote areas, or somewhere on the motorway that isn’t easy to describe,’ Joe explained.

‘It can be something as simple as figuring out whether they’re northbound or southbound. what3words makes this process so much easier. I never thought it would be crucial in a life and death situation like it was though.

‘It’s free and does not take up much space on your phone and it could save your life as it did with my dad.’

Gary asked Joe to drive him to hospital after he started experiencing severe chest pains whilst at work. 

‘I knew straight away that something wasn’t right,’ he recalled. ‘That was the first sign before the other symptoms started kicking in during our car journey.

‘As I have had heart attacks before, we knew exactly what we needed to go and where to go to get the help I needed, but then suddenly couldn’t feel my arm and I couldn’t breathe whilst Joe was driving me to the hospital, meaning I was struggling to talk to the call handler and describe where we were. 

‘I could tell as time was going on my heart was shutting down. I needed help quickly and we just wouldn’t have made it to the hospital in time without an ambulance getting to us. 

‘I was becoming disoriented and finding it difficult to describe where we were, which is why Joe then took the phone, once we were stationary, and decided to share our what3words location – ///anyway.lend.give.’

The ambulance along with the critical care team arrived within three minutes and whisked Gary to hospital, where he had an emergency stent fitted to unblock his heart.

A couple of weeks later Gary was rushed back into hospital with more heart problems – and the app proved vital yet again.

The ambulance along with the critical care team arrived within three minutes and whisked Gary to hospital, where he had an emergency stent fitted to unblock his heart

The ambulance along with the critical care team arrived within three minutes and whisked Gary to hospital, where he had an emergency stent fitted to unblock his heart

‘When I called 999 the first thing I did was give them my what3words address,’ he said. ‘I live in the middle of nowhere and I needed help quickly. After last time, I knew that this was the only way to save my life.

‘It was a major heart attack and I still have heart damage. The cardiologist said that if the emergency services hadn’t got there in time I wouldn’t have made it. I’m now doing well, but being careful every day.’  

Jeremy Brown, Integrated Emergency & Urgent Care Director for West Midlands Ambulance Service, said: ‘Each day we receive calls from people who don’t know exactly where they are, or they struggle to describe the location of an emergency or incident. 

‘In a 999 emergency, understanding the exact whereabouts of a patient is one of the first things our call assessors will do; it could mean the difference between life and death. 

‘Once the location is confirmed, our dispatchers can then work on finding the most suitable crew to send to the patient. 

Joe told how he first downloaded the app because he thought it would be a good thing to have when meeting up with friends and in case of emergencies

Joe told how he first downloaded the app because he thought it would be a good thing to have when meeting up with friends and in case of emergencies

Co-founded in London in 2013 by Chris Sheldrick, what3words covers the entire world, never needs updating, and works offline. The app has divided the world into a grid of three metre squares, and given each square a unique combination of three words

Co-founded in London in 2013 by Chris Sheldrick, what3words covers the entire world, never needs updating, and works offline. The app has divided the world into a grid of three metre squares, and given each square a unique combination of three words 

‘Our Integrated and Emergency Urgent Care teams guide callers through how to use what3words when required and have already utilised this platform around 800 times so far this year. 

‘The what3words location provided to us also assists our crews in physically locating the patient on the ground. I’d certainly encourage anyone to download the what3words app as a useful tool to have on your phone or smart device – you never know when you might need it.’

Emergency services across the UK are anticipating an exceptionally busy summer, as restrictions on international travel have resulted in a huge increase in Brits opting to holiday in the UK. 

They have warned of the ‘unprecedented’ pressure that this has put on control rooms and are calling for the public to download and familiarise themselves with the free what3words app as a simple way to stay safe and support emergency services this summer.

Gary said: 'I'm so proud of Joe because he's very dyslexic and listening back to the 999 call, he was so calm and collected when reading out the what3words address. If anyone deserves a medal today it's him'

Gary said: ‘I’m so proud of Joe because he’s very dyslexic and listening back to the 999 call, he was so calm and collected when reading out the what3words address. If anyone deserves a medal today it’s him’

Co-founded in London in 2013 by Chris Sheldrick, what3words covers the entire world, never needs updating, and works offline. The app has divided the world into a grid of three metre squares, and given each square a unique combination of three words.

It enables people to share very precise locations with others, or to input them into platforms and machines such as ride-hailing apps or e-commerce checkouts. 

Whatthreewords is optimised for voice input and contains built-in error prevention to immediately identify and correct input mistakes. 

It is now used by over 85 per cent of UK emergency services – police, fire and ambulance – and all services surveyed described it as ‘a reliable tool to have as part of the emergency toolkit’. 

While not intended as a replacement for any traditional ‘must-pack’ survival gear worth bringing along on all hikes, camping trips, and other outdoor adventures this summer, the technology has become a well-used tool for emergency services, saving dispatchers and responders precious time and resources in an emergency.

In a recent voluntary survey of 19 emergency service control rooms across the UK, 74 per cent of those surveyed reported that using what3words cut response times when it matters most, with two control rooms reporting that on average the technology saved their teams more than 10 minutes per call.

Of those surveyed, 63 per cent had used what3words to locate at least 50 callers in 2021, with some control centres reporting that the technology had been used to assist more than 1,200 incidents already this year.

Nearly half (42 per cent) of emergency call operators said that they receive calls where individuals struggle to describe the location of their emergency on a daily basis.

This summer 68 per cent predict a rise in the number of calls from hard-to-describe locations such as beaches and parks, due to the combination of hot weather, easing COVID restrictions, and increased domestic travel and staycations. 

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