Where Am I?

By: Officer Jeff Kirchman

University of Wisconsin–Madison ArboretumWhether we use a street address, business name, or some other identifiable locator, it’s not hard describing our location — most of us know where we are. And that’s critically important in an emergency — the quicker the helpers know where we are, the faster they can get to us.

But what if we’re in a natural area, without any of those easy locators nearby?

One way is to use GPS (global positioning system) coordinates.

Misplace your sextant and astrolabe? Don’t worry, you probably have a great GPS device in your pocket or purse. Most cell phones make it easy to note your GPS location. Emergency service dispatchers can translate coordinates into map locations. Then help will be on the way.

How can our phones provide this information? It depends on your device.

For iPhone/iOS:

  1. Make sure Location Services is ON: Settings > Location Services > ON
  2. In the list of apps under Location Services, make sure Compass is ON
  3. Press the Home button to exit Settings
  4. Open the Compass app
  5. GPS coordinates will display near the bottom of the screen

For Android:

  1. Make sure Locations Services is ON
  2. Open Google Maps
  3. Tap the crosshair icon in the lower right corner of the screen
  4. Tap and hold the blue dot
  5. GPS coordinates will display in the search field at the top of the screen

If you find yourself needing help while on a hike at Picnic Point, the Arboretum, or any other natural area, use this handy technology so you’ll never have to ask yourself, “Where am I?