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Brownsburg firefighter uses app to rescue lost woman

Posted at 4:55 PM, May 12, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-12 18:28:07-04

BROWNSBURG — A lost woman was safely rescued in minutes after firefighters used an app to pinpoint her location.

On Tuesday, Brownsburg Fire Territory was called for a water recovery of an injured woman in the 700 block of Alpha Avenue.

According to firefighters, they were given an approximate location that contains a mix of neighborhoods, roads and a main park area.


"The note said Alpha Shelter, so I went to the the shelter that's off of Alpha," Health and Safety officer Justin Butts said. "I started down one path and ran into a couple of people that said she was down in a different area."

Butts says by the time he back tracked, Lieutenant Rinehart was already using an app on his phone.

"I could see them moving through the woods, just following this straight line right to her, essentially," Butts said. "It was a very quick location, from the time i saw them until they were with her, i would say maybe five minutes."

The app that Lieutenant Rinehart was using is called What Three Words.

What Three Words is a geocoding system. On their website, What Three Words is described as "the simplest way to talk about location."

According to the website, the app works by dividing the world into 3 meter squares and giving each square a unique combination of three words.

For example, Monument Circle's location is named ""

Rihehart was introduced to the app during a meeting with the department's fire chiefs and dispatch personnel.

He says he downloaded the app during the meeting, but really hadn't used it since, until he was responding to the search and rescue Tuesday.

"I tell you, it works perfectly. It was able to take me right from the firetruck, right to her."


Rinehart says he was very impressed with the simplicity of the technology.

"Literally just get those three words, put them into your phone, with cell signal, without cell signal, you can use a compass or use a navigate button and just follow the path," Rinehart said.

Brownsburg Fire Territory says both the victim and Lieutenant Rinehart had the app and that is what made for the quick rescue.

"It definitely saved several minutes. I can only imagine if it was a larger area or a park. It could save even hours," Rinehart said. "And sometimes people don't have time to wait for us to just wander around."

"We try to stay on top of technology here in the fire service. It could be anything from how we fight fires to just like this, going out and finding a victim out in the woods," Battalion Chief Ryan Miller said. "If there's newer, better technology out there that's going to serve the community better, then obviously that's something we want to pursue."

The What Three Words app is free to download and is available for Android and IOS.