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Latest from DC: Preview of findings in EMS delay. Details on why three ambulances didn’t respond to police officer down.

DC Breaking Local News Weather Sports FOX 5 WTTG

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Previous coverage of Chief Ellerbe & the DC Fire & EMS Department 

March 8 press conference on recent EMS issues 

Chief Ellerbe says ladder trucks not inspected last year because of lack of reserve rigs 

Reporter ambushes Deputy Mayor Paul Quander about fleet & ladders 

Mayor Gray’s office says previous administration neglected fire department & left it unprepared

Reading the latest news accounts, it appears today’s regularly scheduled press conference should include some questioning of Mayor Vince Gray about the DC Fire & EMS Department. On Monday, with no comments coming from Chief Ellerbe or Deputy Mayor Paul Quander, a spokesman for Mayor Gray said the previous administration “neglected” the fire department leaving the city “unprepared”. It is expected, according to news accounts, that there will be a release of findings at today’s event of why no ambulance was available to take a seriously injured DC police officer to the hospital two weeks ago. Details of that investigation are already out. 

Paul Wagner, WTTG-TV/Fox 5:

FOX 5 has obtained the initial findings of an investigation into the March 5th ambulance response for an injured D.C. police officer.

Sean Hickman waited at least 20 minutes for an ambulance that eventually came from Prince George’s County. The Sixth District officer was on a scooter when police say he was intentionally run over by a man in car.

Sources familiar with the investigation say two ambulances should have been able to respond, but did not for reasons still unclear, and a third may have gone out of service by mistake.

The findings are expected to be made public Wednesday morning at the mayor’s bi-weekly news conference.

Sources familiar with the investigation say when the initial call for service went out at 6:36 p.m. that night, one ambulance was in quarters east of the river and near the scene of the accident, but did not respond even though the crew was told to monitor the radio.

Sources say Medic 27 went out of service for equipment trouble and parked at a fire house on Minnesota Avenue in Northeast D.C. when the call for the hit-and-run came in.

The crew went out of service at 6:27 p.m. after reporting problems with two batteries in a piece of equipment on the rig.

At 6:36 p.m., an engine with a paramedic was dispatched to the hit-and-run at 46th and A Streets in Southeast while communications searched for an ambulance.

Sources say a second crew, Medic 19, was at Howard University Hospital and asked for a delayed response back to quarters on Pennsylvania Avenue, SE, and went out of service at 6:34 p.m. after being also told to monitor the radio.

The call for the hit-and-run came in two minutes later.

A third crew, Ambulance 15, went out of service for 53 minutes from 6:26 p.m. to 7:19 p.m.

According to the crews’ own account, it was a mistake. They entered the wrong information into the rig’s computer and put themselves out of service.

20 minutes after the initial call for help went out, Ambulance 15 was still parked at a fire station on New Jersey Avenue, NW.

“It was a computer error,” says Union President Ed Smith. “They lost them in the system. Once the employees realized there was a problem, they self-reported the problem and then they were dispatched on another run.”

Smith says the firefighters realized their mistake when they heard a call for service over the radio that should have been given to them.

“They heard a run coming out that they thought they would be responsible to take and that’s when they realized there was a problem and self-reported to dispatch,” said Smith.

Sources familiar with the report say 39 ambulances were on duty that night, with nine out of service at the time of the call for the injured officer.

The investigation has discovered six of those transports were legitimately out of service with mechanical problems.

Jummy Olabanji, WJLA-TV:  

On March 5th a D.C. Police Officer—a victim of a hit-and-run—laid in the street for nearly 20 minutes with a broken leg before he was finally taken to the hospital by an ambulance from Prince George’s County.

In a report set to be released later Tuesday, sources familiar with the investigation tell ABC7 they found that 39 ambulances scheduled on duty that night, nine of those were listed as “out of service.”

Of those nine ambulances, six had valid mechanical issues, but three were improperly taken out of service.

One crew did not log back into the system properly and were off the dispatcher’s radar. But, the other two were considered in “delayed relief mode,” and had been told to “monitor the radio,” and should an important call come, they were told to respond.

ABC7 spoke with D.C. EMS union officials, who say, the two crews in question never heard a call for a dispatch.

Regardless of what led to the confusion, district residents told ABC7 that something needs to change.

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Comments - Add Yours

  • Wayne

    Your listening to the radio a call comes in that you know is your run but your not dispatched, you think nothing of it until the call is handled by somebody else. Thats not a mistake that’s just lazy they didn’t want to run the call, they should be suspended without pay for a couple days for failure to perform their duties, i mean they suspend them for less things in DC maybe they should do it when they don’t do their job.

    • ff123

      I don’t think you understand what you’re talking about. How do you listen to your run be dispatched but no know if it’s already handled by someone else? They are announced at the exact same time. If the call is being dispatched over the radio, a unit is being dispatched with it. Not to mention there are alert systems. Why have them if you expect us to listen to every word said on the radio and self dispatch ourselves? That makes no sense at all and would be complete chaos. Also, a call could be dispatched nearby in their first or second due but they may not be closest since a computer picks you up. Another unit could be passing by. This really isn’t that complicated. It was a mistake.

      • Anonymous

        “I don’t think you understand what you’re talking about. How do you listen to your run be dispatched but no know if it’s already handled by someone else? They are announced at the exact same time. If the call is being dispatched over the radio, a unit is being dispatched with it. Not to mention there are alert systems. Why have them if you expect us to listen to every word said on the radio and self dispatch ourselves? That makes no sense at all and would be complete chaos. Also, a call could be dispatched nearby in their first or second due but they may not be closest since a computer picks you up. Another unit could be passing by. This really isn’t that complicated. It was a mistake..”

        Then why do the Engines, Trucks and Squads answer up on fire calls in their area when they’re not dispatched?

        • ff123

          Really? How is that the same thing? First, you have 4-5 people listening(most likely already driving around and near a radio if they jump on something) as opposed to two.

          Second, it’s dispatched COMPLETELY differently. A medical has a quick “beep” followed by the dispatcher talking extremely fast with such a strong accent you can’t hear the address anyway. A box alarm will say something like, “Units on the following box alarm with the third battalion operate on tac ch 03″ followed by two long beeps and a long enough dispatch that takes awhile due to all of the units on it. Not to mention this doesn’t happen with a new run every minute like the medicals.

          Third, who knows who the closest ambulance it when you’re sitting in the fire house? The ambulances are scrambled all over the city at any time of the day. Fire trucks are usually in their own area. The only person who can see that is someone sitting at a monitor at communications.

          Fourth, this run that they are talking about was no where near Ambulance 15’s area.

          Fifth, after hearing the run they they thought should be in their area, they said something. So that defeats the whole argument that you are trying to make. Did you even read the article? They heard another unit and decided to check on it. If they are hearing the address, they will automatically hear a unit. This isn’t rocket science.

          Last but not least, the two ambulances that were near by were Medic 27 and Medic 19 which aren’t being represented by the union. They aren’t firefighters and are part of a completely difference union.

          Clear yet?

          • Anonymous

            So what you’re saying is since there’s only 2 people in the unit they should not be listening?

      • xray

        Thats bullsh@t (ff123),it happens all the time when a box alarm comes out.Following your theory,then why would units bid on box alarms if not originally placed on the assignment.Could it be that someone is closer than you in your first due area?.Units don’t care if someome is closer on box alarms they will still try to bid to get on it.You don’t see that enthusiasm for medicals/local calls.Why is that?.There is no glory in running ems calls in this city by alot of members.Yes its possible another unit maybe closer on a medical call…but if its a box units will move heaven and earth to get on it…and thats a fact

        • Twin Tower

          Don’t self dispatch at E30 tomorrow! Unless its on a medical local!

          I just can’t understand how you stick up for the current admin. Let’s not compare to the past (right or wrong). What has LRB done other than stir shit. He has not ordered any apparatus, and not addressed the vacancies. If it was not for a childhood friend he would be unemployed right now.

          Do you want to work 3-3-3? It is the only thing he cares about, but yet you support him.

          Please tell me how he has made the department better and how it will be better in the future because of him.

          • xray

            BTW Twin Towers come by the firehouse so we can have a face to face talk.Or are you afraid to let me know who you are.You know who I am so we would be even right?

          • xray

            Oh and for the record I don’t want to work 3-3-3 so in that aspect we agree.No need to self dispatch we run enough calls as it is lol.

    • Anonymous

      I didn’t see where that happened in the story, what. Are u reading?

  • Disturbed

    Still sounds like a bunch of excuses to me. Computer or no computer is no excuse. The crew as well as the dispatcher, that obviously had no clue as to what units they have working, should all be held accountable. This incident alone is lack of integrity and attention to detail. They should not call themselves professionals. All in all the supervisor on duty in both the field and dispatch center should also be held accountable.

    • xray

      @ Disturbed, if this was an honest mistake or computer glitch as the union pres. said,than lets move on.But,since members want to keep running to the press…guess what?…we are going to get just what we ask for.I don’t want to see no one get railroad for an honest mistake.We are all subject to make a mistake from time to time.But if it is revealed that there was some carelessness with malice or negligence…than you have to take the weight.

  • JD Higgenbotham

    Sounds to me like all of the EMS Crew members that were sand bagging should be terminated. They didn’t make a mistake, it is called being to Lazy to respond. I can’t believe that the Union comes out and says it was a mistake. They can’t blame all of this one on the Chief. Sounds like he needs to crack down even more to me.

    • ff123

      It has nothing to do with the union. M27 and M19 aren’t firefighters. They are single role ems employees with their own union. A15 is a firefighting ambulance that wasn’t even close to the incident. Probably would have taken them just as long to respond as the PG ambulance.

      • Anonymous

        Way to “look out” for your brothers!!!

    • Anonymous

      Don’t you work for the same FD that could not locate a victim in a small fire when she was on the phone telling you where she was? Don’t throw bricks if you live in a glass house.

  • teela snow

    People get suspended and demoted for being insubordiate and disrespectful. Those members on Ambulance 15 should be disciplined. Also thanks to the members who keep running to the press and the good local 36 who keep puting there members in positions to fail. Stop it with all the press because only the members are being hurt by it.

    • Twin Tower

      How about local 3721. 2 of the 3 were medic units. The ELO was put in place to stop this. Where was he/she during this event. All three units and the ELO should be disciplined. But since the majority were single role providers nothing will happen.

      Members keep going to the press because the chief is trying to make us fail. He has not purchased any new apparatus and let the vacancies get to a point that we can not provide proper response.

      • xray

        Which is it they made a mistake or they got lost in the system?

        • Anonymous

          1. M-27 was out of service because of dead defrib batteries which they were waiting for the EMS Supervisor to give them.
          2. If the dispatchers (which are not part of either the fire or AFGME /ems union) asked M-27 to respond because of an officer down, they would have. THEY WERE NEVER CALLED nor made aware of the call. Period. ELO should be responsible too. Yes, that’s right – 2 unions sitting right next to each other in a dispatch system, and neither is IAFF.
          3. Monitoring several frequencies in a busy city when you are out of service. Yeah right. Most have no idea what they where talking about.
          4. Unit utilization rates are tantamount to slave labor in DC. The chief stated that his last concern is morale and others around him will push discipline as the motivation despite no contract in almost a decade (last contract was signed in 2002) and off the chart response rates.
          5. A million other things but suffice it to say, I believe the system will collapse by summer. The white collar, highly education Nation’s Capitol, does not understand nor care about the plight or systemic overload of a blue collar firefighter, paramedic, or EMT until it effects them personally or there is a terrorist attack. The Wash Post, while liberal, is not sympathetic to the Union and Ellerbe actially has someone who worked for the Post editorial board, so things sway into his point of view.
          6. The worst part about this is the lack of power in the Union, the cowardness of the SOME of the Battalion, Deputy, and Asst Chiefs to speak their minds, and lastly what is going to happen to ALS in DC. Anyone who said a year ago that it will get worse, knew what was coming.

  • Craig Moyer

    I wonder if people will be as upset with the EMS staff as they are with the chief? Mistakenly taken out of service or just wanted a break? A lot of questions but probably very few answers, especially when you have to point fingers at one of their own.

  • Heywood

    Not saying that a15 was not at some fault but they were on the other side of town out of service no in a firehouse a mile away when the original call was dispatched like M27 who was out of service for batteries which are available in the firehouse where they were at, so lets not point all fingers at A15 which is also like the fourth or fifth due Unit over there and was not in quarters when the call went out just sayin

    • Anonymous

      Can’t really blame 15 tho. Mistakes happen. It’s how you handle the mistake once you realize one has been made. The second they realized what had happened they reported it then took the course of action dictated by communications. Had A15 just responded without being actually dispatched Ellerdick probly would have brought them up on charges.

  • Anonymous

    So now, on top of all the other nonsense these guys deal with on a daily basis, they are expected to self dispatch on calls. Isn’t that why they have a multimillion dollar communications center?? If a box comes in a fire truck is not allowed to self dispatch on the box but if it’s a medical they are EXPECTED to self dispatch!?! Don’t get me wrong, the fact an officer laid on the ground for over 20 minutes is COMPLETELY insane but to once again pass blame on the firemen is ridiculous. With 39 ambulances on the street at once it would be utter chaos if everyone just did what they wanted. When you’re told to monitor the radio its intent is to listen for communications to place you on a call because they have no other choice…not for you to pick and choose which calls you feel you should take.

    Bottom line city officials need to do the right thing and appoint a qualified person to the chiefs position…not a buddy. Rubin was better but not much. When you’re in the middle of a transition from fire only to fire based EMS one would think you’d hire a guy that has an extreme knowledge of both services. Instead they hired a guy that had never even been an EMT. Completely removed from the reality of the job. Who also liked to rule with an iron fist and spout off “the ships leaving the dock, either you’re on board or you’re……” oh wait that concept didn’t work out too well. And now there’s the current guy. I don’t even know where to start with him. What a joke. At least Fenty tried. Unfortunately he just made the wrong choice. Gray has willingly appointed an unqualified moron that already had a negative track record at the place a came back from.


  • UsetobeDC

    It sure sounds like the system is to blame.

    Why would an ambulance need to listen to the radio then bid on the call??

    Shouldn’t the dispatch center call them directly if there is a call and they are available??

    And most importantly why do people continually suggest that termination is the only form of punishment available. These are career jobs and suspension would be the punishment if there was in fact an infraction that warranted any punishment. Not saying there are grounds for any punishment here just commenting in general.

  • haveyouseenmybaseball?

    So let’s see here, I’m getting my information strictly from these news reports, no secret sources. We have M-27 go out of service at a fire station on Minnesota Ave 9 minutes before the call was dispatched for equipment trouble, but we don’t know what exactly, very vague. We can surmise that since there is only one firehouse on Minnesota Ave. that they were at their home quarters of E-27 at Minnesota Ave. and Burroughs Ave., NE. The next unit, M-19, assigned to E-19 on Pennsylvania Ave., SE, was at Howard University Hospital, presumably from a transport. The next unit, A-15 assigned to E-15 at 14th and V St., SE, and from this report, looks like they’re gonna be the fall guys sorry about your bad luck, was either at E-3 or E-6 on New Jersey Ave., NW for some reason, could be a myriad of reasons from dropping off a medic from a previous call, to retrieving supplies, to grabbing something to eat while en route to their quarters from a transport, whatever. Still not clear. What we do know, by the crew’s own admission, is that they inadvertently placed themselves out of service, probably by pushing the wrong button on their I-mobile. Since it was inadvertent I would guess that they made no verbal transmission of why they were out of service and if so, why weren’t they asked by a dispatcher why they were out of service? Also, according to this report, 39 ambulances were on duty with 6 out of service for mechanical issues and then the three mentioned above, but no mention of what the other 30 ambulances were doing. I would assume they were on other responses, but it’s not clear. This isn’t just a Fire Chief problem or simply a crew problem, it is a very real Office of Unified Communications problem too. The OUC “dispatchers” are anything but, they are screen readers who do everything the mighty computer tells them. Neither the computer nor the screen readers can discern when units are criss-crossing on responses, or when they “lose” out of service units. The weakest link in the DC Fire/EMS chain is not the chief (hard to believe) or EMS (as many would have others believe), but OUC, and they will most likely skate away from this issue like they do with everything else. Not trying to spread or divert blame, just bringing up valid points that haven’t been mentioned in news reports.

  • tony m

    how about while hiding at engine 6.did they notice any runs coming out that they did not jump on around that area.Local 36 is lying if u hit out of service on the i-moble it will show it on the botton of the screen.Mistake my a%%,local 36 is quick to jump on the chief what about A-15 they need to lose money as well.

    • ff123

      I can already tell you that you are posting lies. Who said they were at Engine 6? Did you know that there’s two fire houses on New Jersey Ave? Ever think that they were dropping a medic off? Or possibly being proactive and restocking their unit while they could? If they were dropping the medic off it may have been a serious run that created a mess and they needed to decon. Get your facts straight before you make rumors up.

      What we DO know are that six units were broken. Whose fault is that? The chiefs or is that on ambulance 15 too? What about the single role medics sitting in their fire house right up the street? Must be ambulance 15’s fault too.

      • Anonymous

        They SHOULD have VERBALIZED why they went out of service…if it was legitimate…..but by THEIR OWN admission…..that was not the case!!!!

        • Mark too

          Why should the have “VERBALIZED why they went out of service” (at the time they went out of service) if they weren’t aware that they had placed themselves out of service? Yes, they admitted that they were not legitimately out of service because they weren’t aware that they were listed as out of service. Not all mistakes have a sinister origin and I’m sure they weren’t the first crew to ever hit the wrong button on their terminal.

    • xray


    • ClownShow

      Hiding at Engine 6? I am pretty sure an ambo does not want to try and hide at Engine 6.

    • ClownShow

      Hiding at Engine 6? Are you kidding me? No ambo can hide at 6 Eng.

    • xray

      Tony M,I agree with you if A-15 made a mistake and hit the wrong button….than my next ques? is did they monitor calls in that area?(NewJersey ave).The oldest trick in the book (BTW you can still get away with it)is to not push available on the i-mobile….thus buying down time for whatever.I don’t want anyone to get skinned alive for a HONEST mistake by no means.But if there is no legitmate reason why any unit was out of service…well than you have to accept responsibility for your actions or inactions.Question did the union go to bat for Capt V.Coleman like they are doing now for some members?.Can someone refresh my memory because I don’t recall the UNION taken an aggressive attack let alone a stand to back her.But we can take a stand for “T” shirts.Where is the balance?.I don’t want my union on tv concerned with menial issues.How about espousing a raise,20 year retirement and better disability.That’s what we should be on “tv” fighting for.The city has money now,lets go after that as aggressive as we have attacked everything else.

  • haveyouseenmybaseball?

    What most everyone is missing is that ALL the ambulances and medic units in DC are city wide. NONE of them stay in their assigned areas for long. 46th and A St., SE is technically not in A-15’s first, second, or third due area. The freaken EMS units are so busy that we can NEVER tell where they’re coming from. A-15 was in NW at the time of dispatch, so they’re supposed to self dispatch even though it’s technically not in their area?! If they went out of service accidentally by pushing the wrong button, why were they not ASKED by a DISPATCHER what the problem was?! Oh that’s right, because we don’t have dispatchers, we have a computer that doesn’t care about the status of units. DC needs to get that computer that does care. There will be a fall guy(s) and it will be Firefighters, aka members of Local 36. It doesn’t matter who is wrong as long as someone is wrong. OUC will continue to be held unaccountable. AGAIN.

  • haveyouseenmybaseball?

    tony m,
    Were you riding A-15 that night? You seem to know exactly why they were doing what they did.

  • waheid

    Obviously, DCFD EMS is broken. The pertinent question is: Can it be repaired? My guess is that it cannot. There are, and have been, far too many problems and the problems run deep. Nearly all areas of administration, operations, and management are dysfunctional. If ever there was a case for turning over EMS to a contractor, this is it.

    • Anonymous

      I don’t think it can be fixed. Why?? Because these guys get pounded into the ground day in and day out. There is no break. No escape. 99% of the department is completely burnt out and the administration doesn’t give a damn. All they do is continue to place unrealistic expectations, implement new “reactive” regulations, and pass blame anywhere they can.

      They make absolutely no effort to create a work environment that promotes a desire to even care…let alone do a good job. All they do is take advantage of every member every opportunity possible to work them to their limit with little to no regard for anything else. What’s that leave the taxpayer with?? A public safety department that has lost all concern for the safety of the public. Not because they’re these horrible assholes but because they have been worked to a point where caring would only make you go crazy. So instead you’re only left with 2 options: 1. leave and find a department with an administration that actually cares about it’s workforce. or 2. ride the wave to retirement doing whatever you can to fly under the radar and not get in trouble.

      I chose option 1 (along with an extremely larger number of other people…especially for a department with the history DC does) and haven’t regretted my decision one day since. DC Fire sucks. Period. And I DON”T MEAN THE FIREMEN. They’re some of the best guys I’ve ever worked with. I mean the worthless administration, their ideas, and their rules.

      Want guys to be good at what they do?? Give them a job they enjoy doing.

      My opinion is that both Fire and EMS are more than busy enough to justify their own separate existence. Biggest challenge now would be to figure out what to do with the enormous amount of guys they’ve hired. Let firemen be firemen and EMS be EMS. Who the hell cares about fire service trends. Most fire services see no where near the call volume DC does. Check out Charlotte. They seem to make it work within a busy city environment.

      • Art of Fire

        People choose a job KNOWING what it entails. The employer doesn’t “give them a job they enjoy doing.” If the folks don’t like their jobs, then it’s time to find a new line of work. DCFD has been providing fire based ems response for as long as a lot of the folks that have been recently hired have been alive. It’s not a bait and switch situation.

        The job doesn’t owe you anything, you owe the job.

        • Anonymous

          The job doesn’t owe you anything??? Are you kidding? Hell yes the job owes you something. You go in there every shift and put an awful lot on the line for this city and the people in it. It owes you a little respect in return. Nothing extreme. Just respect. And there is NONE. No appreciation from the administration for anything.

          And NO this hasn’t been a 100% fire based EMS system for as long as these guys have been alive. It’s been a division of the fire department staffed by EMS civilians. Get your facts straight. It was nightmare with the civilians because of the types of employees within that division. Now it’s a nightmare because of the administration and the policies they have implemented since attempting to make everyone a “dual role” provider.

          Yes, these guys come to DC to work for a traditional busy fire department. There are busy fire departments all over the country that are able to provide a quality work environment that the employees enjoy coming to. And YES IT IS THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE ADMINISTRATION to provide a quality work environment.

          It’s basic psychology. If you hate what you do you’re not going to have a desire to do it to the best of your ability. You say simply go find another job…if that were the case 75% of the department would be gone. I can promise you the majority of the new guys DON’T know everything DC Fire entails prior to being hired. There is no way of truly realizing the shit you’re getting yourself into until you graduate the academy and get thrown into the clown show.

        • Anonymous

          Twenty years ago, as a volly in PG, I was in a conversation with some friends who were career in PG. They were so mad about the combination system and the “two-hatting” vollies taking command position. I stated that when they signed on the line, they were fully aware of what they were getting into and needed to work within the combo system instead of bashing their own skulls against the wall for the rest of their career. One guys yes, this is true, but it doesn’t mean we can’t change things about our job.

          Obviously, many people are never happy in the fire service. Can anyone name a job where all is perfect between the politics, the fire ground, the pay and bennies? Hard to do and it’s never completey fair.

          Yes, you are aware of these things when you sign the line. However, your last commit about the job not owing you anything is misleading and not understanding of the big picture. It’s like that stupid mentality of “just do your job.” That’s like what the sweatshop owner told woman 150 years ago. It is an ignorant mentality.

          You owe the citizens, you owe your brothers, you owe your family, you owe those who taught you, but you don’t owe an employer, THAT DOESN’T CARE ABOUT YOU or your WELLBEING but sees you as cheap labor.

          It has nothing to do with owing “the job.” Don’t forget it.

    • Mark too

      I don’t think the pertinent question as you put it is “Can it be repaired?”. The answer to that is easily “yes, it can be repaired”. The more pertinent question is “Will it be repaired?” The right leader, if given the proper resources, can right the ship. It wouldn’t be accomplished overnight, but it could happen. Unfortunately, that probably won’t happen. Additionally, outsourcing EMS to a private contractor won’t automatically translate into a better EMS system, especially if DC doesn’t retain oversight authority. Many municipalities have given private EMS agencies “the boot” over the years due to poor performance.

      • Anonymous

        It seems to me that everything DC oversees ends up being a complete disaster. Maybe it’s time to outsource to someone that actually knows what they’re doing.

  • RJ in florida

    So LRB and company dodge another one…on to the next thing

  • UsetobeDC

    Simple solutions to EMS in DC:

    Make EMS a career job with adequate pay and promotional opportunities. Under the DCFD umbrella. No need for 3rd service. But the FF/EMT crosstrain plan is a loser and limits the available employee pool dramatically. And waters down FF requirements.

    Put all paramedics on ambulances. This is common sense.

    Increase the amount of ambulances on duty.

    Keep fire trucks for critical calls only when the ambulance isn’t close. Put them in service when the ambulance arrives on scene. (CPR protocols may preclude this but not other calls. If assistance is needed otherwise like carrying large patients etc it can be requested by EMS. And respond while they are packaging)

    Lastly address the socio-economic issues that have lead to an abuse of the 911 system. Make everyday healthcare more readily available(clinics, Dr’s etc)
    And produce public service messages addressing only using 911 for emergencies.

    Here’s hoping the brothers in DC get a new chief who can implement the above real soon!!

  • Use To Be

    Correct me if Iam wrong but is the rule in place were EMS units in N.W. can place themselves in delay until they reach the other side of the Anacostia River S.E.

    • Use To Be

      Let me correct, I apoligize, S.E. units in N.W can place themselves in delay once they leave the hospital to return back in service once they cross the Anacostia in S.E.

  • Anonymous

    If the Fire Chief is to be held accountable…..then the EMS/Firefighter personnel should be held accountable also.

    • Twin Tower

      That goes both ways. But so far the fire chief has not been held accountable for anything.

  • Anonymous

    “Smith says the firefighters realized their mistake when they heard a call for service over the radio that should have been given to them”.

  • Midwest Medic

    What I wonder is why big cities (DC, Detroit, Chicago) all seem to forget that there is such a thing as mutual aid until the damage is done and the response is botched anyhow. No units available? Who’s nearby? And if those towns feel like they’re getting abused, they tell big city to pound sand. I understand that some places in these big cities are still far away from their suburbs, but on the outskirts it could be a stop gap until the suburbs get sick of it too. Or they could turn to the dreaded private ambulances for help. Most big cities don’t do inter-facilities so the privates are usually near the hospitals, closer to the inner parts of the city that suburbs can’t get to quickly. Worried about the quality of care? Enact oversight. Press the EMS system and hospitals to report shitty care by ALL THE MEDICS IN THE SYSTEM (municipal and private) and tell the privates that don’t cut the mustard to have a nice day. These places might be in a tough spot on their own but dear lord, at least try to think outside the box. Letting these incidents happen without doing so is inexcusable. It’s not about pride, it’s about helping people.

  • tony m


    • Twin Tower

      when you had the units there were not as many responses, have you seen the influx of people or are your eyes closed. And remind us why local 36 took over so many units

      • Use To Be

        You got to be kidding me, go back to the 86 87 88 to firehouse mag annual stats to see the most top running Ems unit in the US, Yeah thats right the nickle amb 05 I also remember Engine 10 truck 13 on the fire side Were else could you get your first call at 7;00am in the morning and not return to the firehouse until 10;00pm that night

        • Twin Tower

          30 of the units now. Not just one or two. Again why did your union lose them?

  • Dirk Diggler

    The first problem I notice is firemen complaining of firemen – complaining. Well I have a problem with that and I would like to make a complaint. With or without these problems, firefighters are the biggest bicthing, winning people, I have ever met, next to my own wife and kids… Now I have that out of the way. Let me explain in more detail the problems with MY DEPARTMENT & solve them for you…
    After a pains taking review, I have come to the conclusion, this place is F##### and cannot be fixed… NEXT

  • haveyouseenmybaseball?

    tony m, you need some typing and English lessons. But you know what, I can tell you’re mad. I’m mad too, that puts us in the same boat. The system is effed, but no effort will be made to fix, or at the very least, repair it. Why? Takes too much effort. This stupid stuff of running out of ambulances has been going on for the nearly 30 years I’ve been on the job, it’s NOTHING NEW. During the last administration is when I realized we, the working slobs in the trenches, get effed the hardest by our own. It was our own guys placing everyone on charges for petty incidents or off duty incidents the FD had no business sticking their nose in. It wasn’t Rubin, he was never in town long enough to do it. It was our guys before mr. e who started the whole demotion craze. Of course the mr. e clown show has brought petty vindictiveness to a whole new level, the last two years have brought about more demotions than I’ve ever seen in my entire career. What I do know is the two guys on A-15 should prepare for crucifixion, how appropriate during this Lenten season, OUC will skate, no real answers or solutions will ever be provided, the system will remain beyond broken, and mayor vinnie’s pettiness and vindictiveness will continue to be brought to us courtesy of the mr. e clown show. Nice work guys, how very unimaginative. The beatings will continue until morale improves.

    • xray

      You all are real funny.@haveyouseen….when someone doesn’t agree with you,you try to point out their grammatical mistakes.There are several who have made grammar mistakes on this site…but it seems the ones who are not like mind get reprimanded.Go back and look at some of Twin Towers recent post…I’m sure you’ll find a mistake or two.But oh,that doesn’t matter because he is bashing or against the fire chief.It doesn’t matter if one has a miscue or not,you know what the hell they are saying.So if your going to be the english grammar police,point out everyone’s mistakes.I know, I know, that would be asking you to be fair and too much like right huh?.This is for your reference to tony m’s post (haveyouseenmybaseball)

      • Twin Tower

        Thanks for pointing me out. Oh thats right my shirt wasn’t pressed.

        • xray

          Oh that didn’t feel good pointing out your mistakes in grammar.But it was okay for YOU to write my name….which btw alot of people know who I am… and I stand by what I say.I don’t have anything personal against anyone on this site or off it for that matter.I just notice the contrast between how members treated Rubin in the press versus Ellerbe.That sh@t wasn’t equal by anyone’s standard.The same isssues existed back than I know I was here….why wasn’t it an issue than?.TwinTowers why didn’t guys flock to the press about apparatus parked around half street?.Why didn’t members go to the press for not having ample reserve apparatus?.Why didn’t members go to the press for the delayed response times?.This is sabotage 101 and it stinks bad.

  • Anonymous

    The only civilian EMS employees that aren’t burnt out are the ones that don’t come to work. Ask any of the ones that actually does their job and they’ll tell you… they are burnt out too.

    • tony m

      fireman always b#tch about sh## tell your pay … a 20yr. fireman tech base salary is 80000 per yr. no overtime.overwork Right

      • play4keeps

        1. There are indeed disparities in workload and payscales throughout the Dept. However, check the pay for paramedic-firefighters over the base salary…$4500. Check the ALS reimbursement rate for service that go into the general fund and you will see the city probably makes over a 100K per provider per year. The paramedic compensation is really become slave labor for a failed health care system in DC.
        2. No contract for the firefighters, nor pay raise since 2005. The current contract was ratified in 2002.
        3. Pay ultimately has nothing to do with workload, fatigue, safety, and morale.
        4. Civilian EMS was the bastard stepchild of the Dept until the firefighters took over the mission and experienced the real nature of the general medical service. that’s right GMS – most calls are not emergency in nature but we treat them as such. Hence the stress and high workload. To keep the system functioning and the providers from injury and burnout, you need to manage the operational, training, and compensation correctly. I think everyone agrees, this has not occured.
        5. the accountability system is extremely punitive in nature. There has been no effort to overhaul it or take it outside the Dept. The QA function has become part of the disciplinary process for all intents and purposes within the EMS function of the Dept. Does not change behavior but creates fear, intimidation, and stress in the workplace. This did not start with Ellerbe although he has now caused greater problems than Rubin or Thompson and his AFC-O at the end of the Williams Admin.
        6. Civilian EMS does not come to work is true a lot of the time. There are only 130 or so left, anyway. They do not have much of a retirement pension, so do you blame them? Has anyone checked the divorce rate or lack of children amongst the EMS civilians. It was done 4 years ago and it’s about 70% of the employees.
        6. tony m thank you for your opinions but you obviously do not understand the job the majority of the Dept and the relative rates of pay and compensation in most other jurisdictions. I think your comment reflects what is really occuring in the US – a decline in the standard of living and a huge disparity in income levels and the dissolution of the middle class, especially in the blue collar industries and services. That the City has turned this anti-labor is actually astonishing.

  • Commenter

    Sorry chaps, but EMS is a loser. Sturgeon’s Law says that 90% of everything is crud, this applies to both fire and EMS. With fire, when you run a crud call, you reset the bells and go back in service. With EMS, when you run a crud call, you are stuck with dealing with a patient for an hour while you deliver them to a hospital that doesn’t want them. As a firefighter, you are at the top of your game, or at least your chain of command is. The Fire Chief doesn’t really have to defer to anyone on how to fight a fire in his city. As an EMT, or even a Paramedic, you are at the bottom of the medical profession, right down there with the LPNs. You could be nurse, and shunt patients to the waiting room, or ignore them in their beds when they annoy you. You can’t do that on an ambulance. You are stuck with them. For an hour. 90% of the time.

    You do this for a few years, thinking, I like the lights, the sirens, the adrenaline. Then you realize that the blood & guts don’t mean that much to you – you’re good at it, it’s no longer a challenge. CPR? Code? Easy. They only make up less than 1%. And there’s still the 90% that just want a ride to the hospital. You tell yourself that you like helping people, that you’re helping these people, but you see the same ones over and over and you realize that for everyone you help, there are 10 people who waste your time and the public’s dime. You wish you had become an RN, or gone to PA school. If you can afford it, you do. If not, you complain about the lack of career opportunities.

    Ever notice that the whole discussion about ‘career paths’ for EMS people involves getting them off the ambulance? Be Firefighter/Paramedic, ride a fire truck. Become a supervisor, drive an SUV. But when 90% of your workload is crud, BLS, barely medical transport, there’s just not a lot of need for medical supervision.

    After watching EMS develop for 30 years, here is my learned pronouncement: EMS transport is a job for part-timers and entry-level personnel. There is no career there. Trying to make it a career makes it hard to manage. You can’t employ a guy for 30 years doing something that burns him out in 10. You can’t employ 3 people doing the job of 1, to avoid burnout. Embrace the burnout: hire part-time housewives that like the excitement; hire college students who want to go to med school; hire off-duty firemen; hire GED students with an EMT license. Don’t sell it as a career, don’t try and make it one.

    THE SOLUTION TO DC’S PROBLEM lies 100 miles to the south. Public Utility Model EMS. Figure out what kind of subsidy would be required to operate a PUM. Richmond Ambulance Authority will receive $4.45M from the city of Richmond in 2013, to cover a population and run volume roughly 1/3d of DC’s. So, if DC had to carve $15M from the FD for a subsidy, and lose another $15M in billing fees, they could have their very own PUM EMS system.

    Of course this means finding $30M, almost certainly from the fire department. What is DCFEMS’s budget? $150M? What would the DCFD look like with a 20% haircut? Are 20% of it’s employees tasked with EMS duties?

    I’m confident the nation’s capitol would be better served by a PUM EMS service and whatever’s left of the fire department.

    • Midwest Medic

      You’ve watched it, clearly you’ve never done it. At least not seriously. Your ridiculous commentary on EMS as a career was unnecessary, and frankly, irrelevant and untrue. I’ve been work EMS on an ambulance full time, holding a part time job or two on the side, for 7 years. And will do it until I get old and cranky and don’t want to ride an ambulance anymore, and move on to instructing. Because I love it. The public shouldn’t settle for part time adrenaline junkies showing up for the true emergencies.
      Also, I’ll take dropping off the skells any day over any job out there. At least with the non-emergencies (which by the way don’t constitute 90% of our calls)there’s little to no stress in those. Why would I complain about someone walking to the ambulance, walking into the ER, and writing the simple report? Yes they are tying up resources that could be better used elsewhere, and yes when I don’t get lunch because of them I grumble about it, but that’s a problem with the healthcare system in general, not with my chosen profession.

      • Commenter

        At 7 years in, you are an entry-level person. You yourself have admitted that you’ll do it until…

  • Anonymous

    I keep hearing over and over again that putting paramedics on ambulances will solve the problem. Remember, they are called firefighter/emt’s and firefighter/paramedics. Believ me when I say that 95% of the “firefighters on the Dcfd are all talk and no follow through”. This is coming from a guy who thinks lrb is the biggest c$@& sucker on the planet. What has to happen is everyone comes together to get this guy out. We are all part of local 36 no matter what our position is even if it is the weakest union on the planet. Oh wait I forgot… Your tick house is more important. No wonder we can’t be taken seriously.

  • Anonymous

    Everyone has commented about what is wrong with EMS. Now everyone take a time out. Yes there is Burnout. It’s caused by overwhelming Call Load and thus in some incidents aDelayed Response does occur. The ACCOUNTABILITY begins with the Top in the Administration. Ellerbee this starts with you. So far you havenot demonstrated any Professional Management as to how,why, whatfor, when, who the EMS Service is supposed to Function. There was mention of other cities who make their EMS Service work. They cannot be referred with DC Fire and EMS. Why, one might ask, because those cities have an entirely different structure in Politics and Local Government. They have Voting rights in Congress. The District of Columbia doesnot. As has been reported in the past, Washington, DCis a Federal City. OK now, Our Nation’s Capitol Fire and EMS Delivery System is obviously different. The Response times are going to vary depending the availability of Emergency Service Staffing and Vehicles. If any comparison is of any relevance “Kansas City, Missouri is a good one. In July 1981
    the collaspe of the walkway in a large Hotel Tested the total
    Kansas City Fire Dept.Back then Kansas City EMS Service was handled by Contracted Private Ambulances. The KCFD didnot have EMT. The primary concern for KCFD in that incident was extricating people trapped under the collasped concrete. EMS Responded with Every available Private Ambulance Service and Helicopters. Today KCFD every Firefighter has EMT a Job Requirement. The KCFD also runs Fire Dept Ambulances. The issues in DCFD are solely placed in the Lap of the Top Level Management. Mayor, Deputy Mayor Public Safety, Fire Chief.
    The absolutely shameful disgrace portrayed in the Public Forum
    The Media does concern The Taxpayers. Instead of pursuing blame and avoiding the real issues here, ie: Apparatus out of service parked on the street, near Apparatus Division. Ambulances that arenot properlky Staffed to provide the necessary BLS/ALS Delivery Service. Ellerbee what in the world is wrong with you? Some possible solutions to at least address these issues, (1) Begin with DC fire and EMS Management. (2) An overview and make Dispatch and any other corrections needed to enhance the proficiency of “OUC Personnel” (3) Ellerbee instead of turning Money back to make yourself look good in yourDreams of a Political Future and allowing Apparatus and Overtime for Mechanics take up time which could and should be spent in a more Positive way.

    “Think about it Ellerbee”?

  • UsetobeDC

    I would have to respectfully disagree with some of the above conclusions.

    I am very familiar with a large metropolitan city where EMS emergencies are handled by both FD ambulances and private ambulances and see many EMS who are or have been on a career path.

    And if the career path for the FD ambulances(and pay) was better there are probably more who would follow this path.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t think it matters that A15 was at E06 or E03,or even accidentally OOS, THEY WERE TOO FAR AWAY TO RESPOND ANYWAY! The AVL picks up the CLOSEST UNIT, which was M27,(civilian staffed)who was 1.2 miles away,OOS in quarters,30 minutes prior to their “SHIFT CHANGE”,SHOCKER!!!Ive been on the job for 10 years,and I remember when we(the firefighters)started riding the ambulances. OUC would CRUSH the FF staffed units and go easy on the civilian units. This is no way A15 fault, OOS or not!

  • LRBHater

    I don’t think A15 is at fault here. If they were at E06 or E03, or accidentally OOS,THEY WERE TOO FAR AWAY TO RESPOND ANYWAY!The AVL picks up the closest unit, which was M27,(staffed by civilians) who was 1.2 miles away from the accident, but was OOS in quarters 30 minutes prior to their “SHIFT CHANGE”,…..SHOCKER! Ive been on the job for 10 years and I remember when we(the firefighters) starting riding the ambulances. OUC would CRUSH the FF staffed units and go easy on the civilian units. Its a conspiracy! No way A15 is at fault! They need to investigate the ELO(who is also a civilian)as to why he/she allowed M27 to be OOS for what i’m sure was a Bull Sh*t excuse and not dispatch them on the run, since they were suppose to be monitoring the radio anyway.


    The last time I recall an ambulance hiding out at Engine 6, it was captured on camera by a quick wiitted fireman with the mentality of an acorn…..somehow how the picture of these sleepy medics made Daves old employers 6 o’clock news…

    Regardless of this incident…the Fire Chief should be terminated for this alone…right XRAY ?

    • xray

      Hookman you have an axe to grind with the fire chief, that’s your issue.One thing for sure you’re not accomplishing anything with your venomous and disrespectful rhetoric. Lets say you’re found guilty at a trial,could it be that the jury made the wrong decision?. O.J.Simpson was found not guilty by a jury…even though most believe he committed those crimes.So I don’t put alot of stock in what the arbitrator said because they could’ve made the wrong decision.And I know for a fact if they (arbitrator) had ruled for the chief,you would have said it was fixed.So you cant have it both ways, and I know you like to have it that way.I don’t know why I go back and forth with you…because I can’t tell which way you float.At least some of these guys on here are consistent with their disdain for the chief.Are you bipolar?

  • Anonymous

    “Not all mistakes have a sinister origin?

    Like presenting the wrong numbers for reserve apparatus to the council?

  • haveyouseenmybaseball?

    Nice post. Sturgeon’s Law is awesome, too bad it’s true. I can tell you though that the RAA (Richmond Ambulance Authority) has it’s own share of problems (like everyone else) starting with the fact that they don’t pay sh*t. I believe starting pay for an EMT-B is $10.00 per hour and an EMT-P is $15.00 per hour. At least it’s not the Richmond Fire Bureau’s problem.

  • haveyouseenmybaseball?

    Sorry, RAA EMT-B starting pay is $9.60 per hour. EMT-P is $15.00 per hour.

  • Capt-DCFD

    @Commenter, Whats the turn over rate of employees in a PUM-EMS? It seems to me it would be very high. Currently in DC if cilivians cant staff their units uniformed FF’s do. Does Richmond FD backfill w/FF’s?

  • Commenter

    Pay is only a problem if they can’t fill vacancies at $10/h or $15/h. EMT is a high-school skill level. EMT-P is a vo-tech skill level. Unlike for firefighters, there’s a free market price for EMT’s & EMT-P’s. Unfortunately for them, it’s only $15/h. That was my point – people shouldn’t expect to make a career of EMS, and there’s little reason to try and make EMS career-worthy. People’s lives depend on lifeguards, but you don’t see too many of them pull a 30 year career. Same with soldiers, most of whom do 4y and out. It doesn’t mean their job isn’t important, or that they don’t deserve respect for their service.

  • Anonymous

    “I can already tell you that you are posting lies. Who said they were at Engine 6? Did you know that there’s two fire houses on New Jersey Ave? Ever think that they were dropping a medic off? Or possibly being proactive and restocking their unit while they could? If they were dropping the medic off it may have been a serious run that created a mess and they needed to decon. Get your facts straight before you make rumors up”.

    Good ‘Ole I-Tracker will clear this up!

  • tony m

    i cant hear u now…. we close the imobile and it log us out of service a crap of sh%% ..This is the first a kid could lie better than that

  • http://Firehouse NJ AVE GANG

    Oh Mr. Statter, is it not time for you to “UN RETIRE” you have lead or even convinced many of us to believe you love the DCFD going back to your days in PG. YOU and we know only you with you knowledge and savvy, determination can see this through regardng the media.Jsut rewind to the very begining of the current adminstration wha this man acutally did step by step. many of us quite cognizant of your RIF the Rube, water under the bridge. Just begin with the PATCH and SHIRTS, then on to taking away the LADDER BOARDS showing pride in the individual neighborhoods,just the labor and material costs alone. How he has removed people from OUC and yes some pressure needs to be placed on them as well, just try a face to face conversation with some of them, you will honestly wonder if they greaduated from high school. They need Michelle Rhea. Of course the shop has always been bad since the 90’s, always underfunded and for some reason the civilian non – uniform employees have never been culpable for non performance. YOU and everyone else if acutely aware that DC often has moments when absolutely no units are available, not to mention the fact no functioning hospitals exist in Souteast, this is systemic. It is amazing how the men and women on the streets have held it together being able to overcome the underfunding, poor apparatus and facilities. So now he has been able to cut across anything good that remained and this truly is the result. Dave whether in sickness or retirement, please do this for old guys, new, tradition, HAl,Rich one last time. I know you are busy doing everything you wanted to for years, but did you ever think you would hold the cards! Time to go all in!!!!!

    • dave statter

      That is very kind. I think.

      My reporting days are gone. I do things now that reporters can’t or shouldn’t do. In business for myself there will be conflicts that I have that reporters shouldn’t have. That’s one of the reasons I no longer even pretend to be a reporter.

      I have to admit though, seeing all of this coverage of a fire department I covered for 30 years has me, for the first time since I left TV news almost three years ago, somewhat wishing I was still covering it (I said somewhat). There are a lot of angles to this seemingly never ending story. Quite intriguing.

      Pulling the Hal and Rich card is a low blow. You know how to hurt a guy. I miss them both.



  • LRBHater

    How come LRB nor Quander have had to explain to the media and the citizens as to WHY our system ALLOWS units from the 3rd Battalion to go in “DELAY” until they get back across the river? That alone jeapordizes public safety. Anyone on the job, especially those assigned to the 3rd, use this to their advantage. Meaning, NOT going back in service after crossing the bridge like they are suppose to, AND with communications NOT picking up on it. Like I said before, nobody wants to get “held over” when its time to go home, but this is emergency response and getting off “on time” isn’t guaranteed….EVER! And allowing units to go in “DELAY” to get across the river or for relief, puts the safety of the citizens and visitors of DC at risk!