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UPDATE: Read DC report. Deputy Mayor Quander cites 4 civilian medics & 3 firefighters for discipline in delayed help for police officer. Also, demoted lieutenant & 2 other firefighters want Chief Ellerbe fired.

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‘Confidential’ letter from Chief Rubin to Chief Ellerbe on staffing

Read report from Deputy Mayor Paul Quander

More coverage: Fire Department Report Silent on Mechanical Issues, Alan Suderman, Washington City Paper; Seven Face Discipline for Ambulances Wrongly Out of Service Officer, Eric Purcell, DCist; City: 3 ambulances could’ve helped cop, Alan Blinder, Washington Examiner; Internal investigation finds that 3 DC ambulances could have helped injured police officer, AP via The Washington Post.

Paul Wagner, WTTG-TV/ Fox 5:

Seven people, including a fire captain, two firefighters and four medics, have been singled out for discipline after an injured D.C. police officer waited more than 20 minutes for an ambulance.

A report released Thursday says the captain failed to properly monitor the situation on March 5th when the officer was hit by a car. The other six were in ambulances that were improperly out of service.

As FOX 5 first reported Tuesday night, the investigation singled out three ambulance crews for not monitoring their radios after going out of service the evening of March 5.

Medic 27 was east of the Anacostia River and the closest when Officer Sean Hickman was seriously injured in a hit-and-run.

But the first responder taking the bulk of the blame is the captain working that day as the emergency liaison officer.

According to the report prepared by the Deputy Mayor for Public Safety, the fire captain was working inside the Office of Unified Communications and should have known an officer was down and dispatchers were looking for help.

But the captain, even though he has access to the same data, status information and data screens, was unaware the dispatchers asked for an ambulance to come from Prince George’s County.

“The ELO (Emergency Liaison officer) could have said to the units who had requested relief, ‘No, we are low on available units. You need to stay in service so we can make sure that we are covered,’” said Paul Quander, the Deputy Mayor for Public Safety. “He didn’t do that. Nor did the ELO monitor the situation and return those units to service, which he has the ability to do.”

Quander says the emergency liaison officer is a gatekeeper who keeps his eyes open for problems and makes adjustments if needed.

“I think that it was a major failure that evening,” he said.

But Union President Ed Smith disagrees and says the problem lies within the system.

“The ELO is specifically monitoring two medical channels and routes units to the right hospital,” said Smith. “They are not directly involved with dispatch.”

Smith says to single out this captain is inappropriate when the problem appears to be more with computer system design.

“We need to look at system-wide problems and fix it,” said Smith. “And if it needs more resources, then we get more resources or we make adjustments to the software.”

As FOX 5 reported Tuesday night, Medic 27 and Medic 19 were allowed to temporarily go out of service, but told to monitor the radio.

The crew of Ambulance 15 says it was parked at a firehouse on New Jersey Avenue in Northwest D.C. and unaware they had mistakenly marked themselves out of service when dispatchers were looking for help.

However, the report says Ambulance 15 was actually parked in quarters at Engine 15 in Anacostia at the time of the call.

“I think it is up to every employee to follow the protocols and rules,” said Quander. “And that’s why we have it and so the rules are if you are going out of service, you go out of service on a condition, to monitor the radio in case we need you to respond.”

Quander says all seven face punishment that could possibly end in termination.

The report recommends five remedies, which include keeping four ambulances stocked and ready to go in case an ambulance breaks down.

It was just a couple of weeks ago Quander said at a news conference the fire department should have two ambulances in reserve ready to go.

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Comments - Add Yours

  • UseToBeDC

    If the Medical Director and Chief said “The system worked” then why are they looking to discipline people???

    • CHAOS

      That would be a great $64,000 question at His Highness’ next press conference in front of the cameras.

      Dave, have you thought of re-joining the fray as a hired gun or sniper?

  • Anonymous

    Dep Mayor Paul Quander doesn’t have a clue. He has no emergency services background and is looking for accountability in all the wrong places. Washington, DC is a quagmire and has turned so anti-labor, IMO, it is pathetic. The ELO position was created because the civilian dispatchers have no knowledge of FD and EMS operations. THe ELO is a “traffic cop” only in regard to routing ambulances to the appropriate hospitals and medical consult. The ELO can not tell units to go back in service – only a Battalion Chief can so order that. Incidently, the Battalion Chief is outside the bargaining unit. For Quander to state that it is the employees’ responsibility to self-dispatch and continuously monitor the radio is for response like saying an airplane pilot should act as his or her own air traffic controller.

    Maybe they should consider EMS transportation sort of like a taxi system and privatize the whole thing and pay the provider per response as an incentive. Otherwise, why even have an alerting system. That is what this, and I can’t say what I want to call him, is saying. As far as the ELO or somebody did their job by calling for mutual aid. This whole thing is beyond a fiasco, Dave. They are killing the employees.

  • Truckie

    “We need to look at system-wide problems and fix it,” said Smith.

    It’s not the “System”, it’s the abusers, which are a vast majority of the call volume, that burden the “System”. This may sound crazy but for the time being, maybe we need to beef up dispatch centers with nurses or someone similar to take calls. I mean dissect the call deeper than E911 telecommunications. Lay off the “Leading” questions that the abusers have figured out. We all know that if you ask one of them if they have difficulty breathing, a yes answer will give them a faster response. Their not sick, the’ve just figured the “System” out for their advantage.

    Were letting the “problem” kill us mentally which is leading to errors in our judgement. Most cities have adequate EMS services until we let the 3 day old belly aches take precedent over a “real” emergencies.


    and if you’re found guilty of retaliation by an arbitrator and the person found guilty is the Fire Chief himself…..he will not be disciplined….however, if you trip, stumble or fall when the rules say you have to stand….you will face termination….Mayor Gray…any questions????….i love Kenneth Ellerbe and enjoy working with someone like him who’s a well respected leader in the fire service….this is getting more comical everyday….

  • UseToBeDC

    And to the DCFD leadership and members.

    Please drive home the point to the media and others that Loserbe’s “Shift change plan” is actually an elimination of 1/4 of the DCFD!!!

    This has to be made common knowledge through the media and to the City council so that it is properly understood as the disaster that it is. And not just casually referenced in numerous media reports as a disagreement over scheduling and hours worked.

    All this lagging behind in hiring and equipment purchasing is to enable Loserbe to cut 1/4 of the fire/ems department and implement his changes to the work schedule.

    This cannot be allowed to happen. And if it was understood adequately it wouldn’t be allowed to happen.

  • deputy of light bulbs

    Paul Q….. UM UM UM UM UM UM UM UM UM… The “deputy mayor of public speaking”………well you suck at it! F the members and not yourself typical clown act! you are a joke and hope you and clowns get it son!

  • deputy of light bulbs

    Also Paul “im so awesome at speaking”!!!! How many medic units do you let go unstaff every day shift and night shift!!!! um um umu um…. AL LOT! 3 normal 4 pretty normal 5.. 6.. 7…8… yeah daily

  • Fire21

    It’ll be interesting to see how the confidence vote comes out.

  • Glad I live in VA

    The mayor’s mouthpiece says that if the Chief had his way we’d have 20 more units on the street at the time the officer was struck….

    Bullfeathers. According to FEMS they own 100+ ambulances. They could only keep 33 of them in service due to mechanical problems. Had they there way, they’d have had 33 ambulances in service and 26 crews with nothing to do. Of course at night, we’d be down to 24 ambulances and NO medic units…

    Remember – the plan was to eliminate 14 full-time medic units and place 20 half-time medic units in service. This is an overall reduction of (14 – 20 / 2) 4 medic units.

    The Fire Chief and mayors think that they are going to improve EMS service by reducing the number of EMS units.

  • Commenter

    If 30% of the EMS fleet is out of service, ‘legitimate” or not, this indicates a systemic problem. The personnel dodging runs should be disciplined, however, systemic problems are the fault of the generals, not the footsoldiers.

  • mark

    So no one EVER before has ever made a mistake or missed a radio call from dispatch?

    And then they were disciplined and face termination?

    Not to mention all the other legitimate reasons given.

    Where I come from, crap flows uphill to the chief, he is ultimately responsible, not the guys on the street. Quit blaming the guys that are working their butts off and fix the problems.

  • Ted

    It is becoming obvious from numerous commenters that the ELO is not an EMS system status controller. He’s a scapegoat for this system failure.

    It is not EMS rocket-science for a major metro city (in 2013) to have a real system status controller in the comm. center and to have “alerts” when resources start running low.

    If DC hasn’t figured this out by now, then maybe it is time to hand over EMS to a real verified high performance EMS provider. Richmond Ambulance Authority, Paramedics Plus, even AMR!

  • haveyouseenmybaseball?

    mayor vinnie and his mouthpiece pedro are absolutely correct that the DCFD has been neglected. FOR THE LAST TWO STINKIN’ YEARS. All that’s been accomplished during mr.e’s tenure is the pathetic 5 or 6 rewrites of Article 21 of the Order Book (uniforms), the removal of all those pesky door seals on the apparatus, and getting rid of DCFD on everything. At least we all have our uniform shirts on. Absolutely, positively, 100% PATHETIC. Fortunately, mayor vinnie, deputy p, mr.e, and the lame duck city council all approve of each other and tell us they’re just doing a bang-up job of ruining,oops, running the city. You sorry-ass jokers can’t even provide a core service. How’s that whole statehood thing workin’ out for ya?! This is a completely manufactured crisis designed to reduce 1/4 of the department in the name of social engineering. Good luck guys, certainly is entertaining!

  • Anonymous

    So once again everyone gets in trouble EXCEPT the people actually responsible for dispatching the units to these calls. If OUC knew these ambulances were out of service for no other reason than to get back into their respective districts then they should have known, if absolutely necessary, these same units were able to take that call. Isn’t that their job. Even the liaison officer is not responsible for ACTUALLy dispatching the calls. The damn dispatchers are.

  • Wayne

    Typical discipline the rank and file instead of fixing the problem which is higher up the food chain

  • haveyouseenmybaseball?

    THAT’S the problem, we don’t have dispatchers, we have mindless screen readers who vomit what the computer tells them to. Fire/EMS is the scapegoat. AGAIN.

  • Anonymous

    OK Everyone, enough said about the Failures and Blame for the Incident in Question. How about everyone take a step back and rethink what solutions could-would-should be considered to fix this mess. The DC Fire and EMS Service is a good Professional Operation as it is designed to do so. In the System however there are various people who make mistakes cover up and attempt to shift Blame onto the Rank and File. To begin with, Quander is absolutely clueless to the EMS Service. He looks at numbers and words which are created and further causes disruption to the EMS Delivery System. Quander simply needs to recognize his inability to recognize and understand what exactly was the souce. Quander also needs to become more involved in LEARNING what the actual Responses of EMS is about.
    So far Quander has demonstrated he knows nothing. Even not being experienced in the DC Fire and EMS Service, he should make an all out effort to get involved. The Basic Body of Knowledge Quander lacks is and will continue to be detrimental not only to the Professionals who really do what can only be described as a Respectable Job. Each one of these Professionals maintain their Job Responsibilities above Reproach. The ELO is not the sole solution to making any real
    progress. The Dispatchers at OUC must assume a great deal of Blame for out and out inability to act in a responsible manner in a Timely Fashion. Whatever the problem is with OUC those people need some Remedial Training. It seems that whenever something occurs with DC Fire and EMS The OUC has a primary role which has escalated the Incident. Before any EMS Response occurs OUC has received the call, and should be at the very top on getting Response assistance. This isnot the first time OUC has been a primary issue. One call I recall I personally took it as total stupidity. Traffic Collision Military Road near Beach Drive Interchange. One person Pinned. The 911 caller clearly stated where she was. The OUC replied Military Road doesnot intersect with Beach Drive. The Innocent Soul who was pinned lost his Life. “Delayed Response” seems like that scarnio has once again surfaced with the Police Officer. The OUC Personnel need Remedial Training in Fire and EMS Priority, with Dispatch. Using Good sound judgement in Dispatch decisions can minimize this disgusting situation from occurring. Quander instead of praising without True Merit and reasoning how,why, when,who OUC functions get involved and either put forth some definitive Dispatch Training or weed those who are not suitable for this line of work. Ellerbee you need to get involved within Job. To say you werenot aware of the real Apparatus Status is abslutely absurd. It is your job to each piece of Apparatus status, Front Line and/or reserve.
    Stop playing the role Ellerbee. Wake up smell the coffee, do yor job, or get out.

  • Older than Ol’ School

    Not being properly vetted, sexual harassment claims in two cities, removal of everything DCFD, threatening members in quarters, burning personnel docs at the training academy, mustache-gate, swimming-pool gate, beer-gate, demotion-gate, sexual harassment of teenage cadets, fleet maintenance overtime, communications, MPD officer down for 20 min., broke down engines, trucks, ambulances and firehouses, throwing every swinging d!@# under the bus.

    • Older than Ol’ School

      How could I forget ” Standing w/ fellow firefighters alongside POTUS-gate”.

  • 6ftHook

    Its not just DC that has this problem.

    The only difference I see is that in DC, you will get mutual aid medics from outside the jurisdiction. In Philly, no such luck. You will wait however long it takes for a PFD medic unit to show up. No matter how long the timeframe. In DC an engine transported a pt because no medic units were available and they get a pat on the back (or so it seems). In Philly, an engine company transported a pt and got disciplinary charges.

    In the above news story you will hear from the Fire Commissioner how it doesnt really matter because 80% of EMS runs are non life threatening. What he fails to point out is that there is no priority dispatching. So, first come first served, no matter the severity.

    A common thread in all of this is that both departments are headed by men who were never true leaders and even worse managers but had friends in the right places.

    • Glad I live in VA

      There’s no real priority dispatching in DC either – while the total assignment may vary by severity, if a man with a sore finger calls 911, OUC will send DC’s very last ambulance to him. If someone calls for a child choking 2 minutes later, they’ll send a fire engine with no transport.

  • haveyouseenmybaseball?

    I’ve always been amazed at how alike the FD problems are in Philly and DC. I think these “leaders” get together every weekend and take advanced classes on how to mismanage. Keep up the GREAT work guys!

  • Truck Company

    No mention in the “report” about the six units out of service mechanical. Perhaps some of the “Blame” could be placed there as well. But, that would point directly to management. In the blame game, management is never at fault.

  • Frankie Goes Hollywood

    Were the hell is the medical Director when all this is going on Hiding underneath a Table

  • City above the Mason Dixon

    I’m not sure how the district is handled union wise but please be careful about a vote of no confidence. The city i work for had a similar vote and it totally backfired on us. Not only did we not accomplish anything but the chief actually came down harder on us. I definitely understand why a no confidence vote is appealing but make sure you can wage a media battle along side the vote.

  • the great gazoo

    Its evident that the union doesn’t have an affinity for the current administration.It may appear that the department is falling apart at the seams.There are a host of issues that need attention.Chief Ellerbe this isn’t an admonishing but you need to get a grip on this department.We need apparatus like yesterday.

    If manpower is one of our deficiencies than hire more FF’S ASAP!.The union has no credibility or leadership it’s a joke.Ray Sneed where are you?…we need you to come back and put your expertise to work.The union needs a transplant.

    As for the members stop running to the press for in house issues….you think your hurting the chief….your actually hurting us all.And for those who think they can say and do what you want without consequences….think again this isn’t the last administration.

    Its going to take cooperation from all of us to turn this thing around.Chief Ellerbe if you are listening….have a sit down with the membership and ask what can you do….to turn this situation around.Listen to them not saying to give a mile but listen to thier needs.

    Its apparent that some are pissed because they do not have dominion over who goes to the prime stations anymore.There are those who know now that if you break the rules you’re gonna have to pay.What’s the real reason we are so uptight?

    You don’t have to wear DCFD on your shirt to have pride it comes from within.We are going down a road of no return if we do not get OUR ACT TOGETHER.We can’t blame the chief for everything….we all have to share the responsibilty on this.

    This is our department and that includes everyone from top to bottom.If you think this department was any better with Rubin well than you need to go to the clinic.Chief do something we can’t go on at this pace for much longer.

    There are cancers within our ranks that need to be eradicated from this department.You are poison….a plague that needs to be stomped out.Chief make the hard decisions and do whats neccessary for the best interest of the department.Monday will be interesting with the cameras and all….see yall there.

    • Glad I live in VA

      Gazoo – we have real problems and this is what your hero has done for us: took away the NFPA compliant shirts we had and issued new ones, scraped DCFD off of everything, cut overtime, failed to order apparatus, and started strictly enforcing uniform rules.

      None of this has improved public safety or employee working conditions.

      Under Rubin our BLS and ALS response times were better = better public safety. Our uniforms prevented and relieved sometimes fatal heat-stress better = better working conditions.

      Can you name one thing Ellerbe has done to improve the provision of Public Safety?
      Can you name one thing Ellerbe has done to improve working conditions?

  • Anonymous

    The silence from the Chief Officer’s Association and Local 3721 is very sad. None of us are safe from this deranged tyrant. This is our department and all of us have to stand firm that for the sake of public safety he must step down.

  • Joke City

    @ GAZOO

    Sounds like you have a Hero. Maybe you can sit down with your Hero and get everything fixed. Then maybe he will give you a smily sticker and a cold pop. Let us know at the union meeting what you got fixed.

  • the great gazoo

    @glad I live in Va, scrapping off DCFD from buildings rattles your chain?.Cutting overtime is not a good thing?.So basically you want overtime to be plentiful regardless of what it does to the city budget.

    I know you dont give 2cents worth for Wash,DC its all about come here take,take ,take.Thats the attitude alot of members have its about me.Under Rubin the disparity regading discipline was as lopsided as the day is long.

    Under his regime there was no fairness in transfers,acting,and discipline.Rubin era was business as usual.I recall Rubin put you on the ambulance….didn’t we take it over during his tenure.

    People keep saying the citizens aren’t safe….most don’t even care about ems….which btw constitutes the majority of what we do. So why even bring it up.I’ll tell you what the issue is with the department.

    1.The chief proposed a shift change that all members do not want.

    2.The chief has made some transfers that many do not like.You’re not suppose to go to the 5th battalion?.

    3.Some members have been demoted for their actions.So you’re not suppose to be punished for violating rules of the department?.

    4.He’s making you wear the proper uniform.we get aid 50k plus a year and you’re b@#$hing about how to wear your it.

    You’re defending the last administration for their inability to run a department and handle a budget.Sure we have issues that need to be addressed no doubt….it didn’t start yesterday by no means.

    Chief Ellerbe has the reigns now and it is his baby….regardless of how bad he was given the department.Something needs to be done to get apparatus and manpower back upto speed.

    As for the dcfd decals and “T” shirts thats not important in the grand scheme of things.We want a contract,more apparatus and to hire more FF’s to improve staffing.

    As far as discipline,well if don’t want to be compliant and follow the rules and regs,than you have to face the consequences.

    There is always going to be difference of opinion as well as division on this job.Today showed the city how divided we are and have always been.Your plan is working just as expected.

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