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Stinky Bay? How local names can protect lives on the coast this summer

22 Jul 2021

Ordnance Survey (OS) and Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) are ready to help protect people visiting the coast this summer, following the national roll out and ongoing expansion of a mapping tool containing thousands of nicknames of coastal locations.

Stinky Bay, Crazy Mary's Hole or Nuncle Dicks are all nicknames, which along with thousands of others, feature in the mapping tool FINTAN, and can be accessed and located on the OS map to assist emergency response teams.

In 2020, the MCA was called to over 33,000 incidents around the coast of Great Britain. Responding to these incidents poses some key challenges with callers often using nicknames for beaches, rocks and other areas that have other names on maps or don’t exist within gazetteers. This can make the identifying the location of the incident difficult for a 999 operator when time is critical.

To help tackle this challenge and ultimately speed up response times, OS in partnership with the MCA developed FINTAN. The easy-to-use tool is built on OS's trusted and accurate digital data and works as a crowdsourced gazetteer that references local names for various features and areas. The tool which has recently been rolled out across the nation, allows MCA staff to add local names and nicknames for beaches, rocks, waterways and other features onto the existing mapping data.

Today MCA is using FINTAN across Great Britain to pinpoint locations with certainty, enabling rescue teams to respond quickly and more efficiently.

Through the mapping tool, the rescue service can reference nearly 500 thousand coastal place names, which includes 7,500 local nicknames and alternative names of landmarks along the coast of Great Britain; names which would rarely appear on a map or navigation device.

Chris Chambers, Head of OS National Mapping Services, said: "At OS we have a long history of supporting all the emergency services with our mapping data. FINTAN is a great partnership project which gives MCA critical information and delivers vital minutes to help responders save lives.

"I am delighted that this is now being used by the MCA across the nation. Now our ambition is to make the service, as part of our public duty, accessible across every part of Great Britain to support all our emergency services. It's not just coastal areas that have alternative names, across the country people refer to many other locations with nicknames - from buildings to parks and roundabouts to road junctions."

The project began with a pilot on the south coast with MCA staff entering nicknames for offshore rocks and islands against maps. It has now developed into a national system allowing MCA to quickly identify locations in an emergency. From only having a rough idea of location and needing to search the map to confirm the right place, staff can now simply type in the location nickname in FINTAN and be told where it is.

Chief Coastguard Pete Mizen said: “We are here to save lives and our biggest priority is reaching people in need of our help as quickly as possible. A great deal of hard work has gone into the creation of the FINTAN database, which delivers so much local knowledge and there is no doubt that having this extra information at our fingertips cuts down our response times and saves lives. We are expecting another busy summer at the coast with many families and water sports enthusiasts enjoying holidays in the UK this year and this database will no doubt yet again prove invaluable to us.”

Ordnance Survey
By Ordnance Survey
Press Office

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