911 Dispatcher Uses Facebook to Locate Injured Hiker

A dispatcher trainee from California recently put her knowledge of social media to good use when she helped locate a critically injured hiker. The 911 office in Sacramento received a call from 11 year old Jake, who had gone on a hiking trip with his father Ryan Pritchard. He told the dispatchers that his dad fell while repelling and that he had hurt his head. The call was dropped before the child could reveal their location, however.

The only clue the 911 dispatcher had was that the call originated from a cell tower near Vacaville, which as it turns out, is more than 30 miles away from where the father and son were hiking. Just when the dispatchers thought they had hit a dead end, Breanna Martinez, a 911 dispatcher trainee of 3 weeks, came up with an out of the box idea to help locate them.

She googled Ryan Pritchard’s name and found his LinkedIn account online, which also stated where he was from. She then used his profile photo from LinkedIn to sort through other Ryan Pritchard profiles that popped up when searches were conducted on Facebook. Once she successfully accessed his Facebook profile, she noticed a recent update with a picture of Ryan and his two sons. Behind them, Lake Berryessa was in the background and the photo caption read “Hiking the Blue Ridge Trail Today.”

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First responders were immediately dispatched to the location and were able to provide timely assistance to the Pritchard family. The rescue crew was able to airlift the injured hiker before sunset.

Pritchard suffered from several fractures, a broken jaw and a head injury and is said to be recovering at the hospital. His sons Jake and Devon were not injured in the incident. The elder son Devon, 18, was packing the hiking gear in the family car at the time of the incident, which was when Jake made the call to 911 using his dad’s cellphone.