Local Woman Saved After 911 Dispatcher Tipped Off By Facebook Security

It’s not every day that Chautauqua County’s 911 center in Mayville gets a call from Ireland.

But on the morning of July 27, around 10 a.m., Steve McAninch, a senior dispatcher with more than 30 years of service with the Sheriff’s Office, answered one of the more unusual calls of his career, one in which a man with a­­ strong Irish accent warned him of a local woman in trouble.

“I asked at one point, ‘how do I know this isn’t a scam?'” McAninch said. “The (caller) replied, ‘you’re just going to have to trust us.'”

The voice belonged to a member of Facebook Security out of the company’s European Headquarters in Dublin, Ireland. Apparently, someone reported to them that a 24-year-old woman had posted threats of harming herself on her Facebook page.

When security personnel traced the woman’s IP address to a Windstream account in Western New York, they contacted the 911 center in Mayville to report the finding.

“We couldn’t access her Facebook page and (Facebook Security) thought Windstream would be able to give us her location,” McAninch said.

The IP address, of course, could not pinpoint what device the woman was using. Instead, McAninch used a cellphone number that Facebook Security said was attached to the woman’s account.

“We contacted the cellphone provider (Verizon Wireless) in an attempt to locate the phone, thinking if we found the phone, we would find her,” McAninch said.

Verizon Wireless was able to provide a ballpark location of the phone in Steamburg, a rural hamlet in the town of Coldspring. McAninch informed the Cattaraugus County Sheriff’s Office, who apparently had the woman’s name flagged in its system for previous mental health issues.

By noon, just two hours after the initial call from Ireland, police located the woman at a Steamburg home. Still conscious, the woman had reportedly swallowed a number of over-the-counter pills and appeared to have superficial cuts on her body. She was taken to UPMC Chautauqua WCA hospital for treatment.

Her current condition has not been released.

McAninch, while acknowledging that it’s unusual for someone to report such posts to Facebook rather than the police, said it’s not unusual to receive calls about people threatening themselves.

Modestly, he played down any attempt at taking credit.

“It was just like any other call where we have to track down people … this caller just originated from Ireland,” he said. “I just happened to answer the phone … it could have been anybody.”

Joe Gerace, Chautauqua County sheriff, praised McAninch’s efforts.

“I’m extremely proud of the way this case was handled,” he said. “There are a lot of unsung heroes who work in the 911 center and they help people like this every day.”

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