UPDATED: Mayor Bowser: Start fixing DC 911, now!


A child has now died after another botched EMS response in the District of Columbia. You can read the details in the article below from The Washington Post. It appears, despite an investigation that’s supposed to get to the bottom of this, Kevin Donahue, the deputy city administrator, is already claiming the reason the closest paramedic unit, just three blocks away wasn’t sent is because of human error at Engine 20, where the unit wasn’t properly logged in via the new tablets on the rigs.

DC 911 center

The leaders of both the firefighters union and the EMS union, who rarely agree on anything, both testified last month that this WIFI based system doesn’t work properly. It was rushed into service without proper testing by the Office of Unified Communications (911 center) in the waning days of the previous administration.

Once again, as with the Metro incident, all of the focus is on what fire and EMS did. So far, there is not a bit of real transparency from OUC Director Jennifer Greene, which, of course, has long been SOP at the 911 center. No one is telling us what time OUC got the call and what time it was dispatched. Just as with the injured police officer story (further down), there are a lot of different versions of what happened. Greene and company thrive on confusion and deflection away from the awful mess at DC 911.

Kevin Donahue and the administration of Mayor Muriel Bowser aren’t understanding the real issue behind many of these problems. A tweet from reporter Paul Wagner at WTTG-TV/FOX 5 makes that clear:

Mr. Donahue, I can assure you the problem between OUC and the DC Fire & EMS Department is NOT “technical and logistical”. Yes, there are some serious issues with these tablets that replaced a system that worked. But what caused that is the person in charge at OUC who let this system go live without proper testing. Again, that’s Jennifer Greene.

Every time something goes wrong at OUC’s end they tell us it’s because of everything but the people. They are wrong. The problem is terrible call handling at the 911 center. The problem is poor hiring practices and a lack of training of the people who work at OUC. The problem is the inability to properly classify calls so the correct EMS resources are sent. The problem is management that does not know how to run a 911 center. 

Until you recognize this Mr. Donahue, things will not get better and you will become enormously frustrated as the citizens and visitors continue to get poor service when they call 911. If you don’t clean house now at OUC, you are setting your new fire chief up to fail.

Peter Hermann, The Washington Post:

The city is conducting an investigation into the D.C. fire department response last week to a 911 call to help a toddler who was choking on grapes and later died.

Paramedics who were about a mile away were sent to the child’s Tenleytown house on March 13, while others only blocks away were never dispatched. The boy, about 18 months old, died Thursday, officials said.

Kevin Donahue, the deputy city administrator, said an investigation is underway to pinpoint failures. The city blames the delay on human error, while the firefighter’s union says it was caused by problems with technology used to identify fire engines and ambulances closest to emergencies.


Sorry Mayor Bowser​, your priority should have been to provide professional leadership at DC’s Office of Unified Communications with a mandate to fix the horrible mess on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, SE. New fire chief Gregory Dean will not be able to make much of a dent in improving EMS in the Nation’s Capital if you first don’t clean house at the 911 center.


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Another day and another story about someone waiting for an ambulance that didn’t come or came way late. This time the person waiting is a DC police officer.

Yes, the DC Fire & EMS Department has some real issues to deal with that contributes to these problems. But, as I’ve been trying to tell anyone who will listen, from politicians to reporters, the biggest problem are the real first responders, the ones who answer the 911 calls.

Unless there is change soon, stories like this will keep on happening while OUC Director Jennifer Greene and company continue to stonewall and point to everything but the real problem. Greene makes every excuse for OUC’s lack of transparency because she has to. She doesn’t want anyone to know the real nightmare that is the DC 911 center. (Read this story from AP’s Ben Nuckols about OUC’s transparency issues.)

DC Jennifer Greene

OUC has been neglected for too long, with little real oversight by the City Council. As we’ve told you previously, Greene sat right across from the DC City Council at two hearings since the deadly January 12 Metro incident and not one council member asked her about the lengthy delay in dispatching the call to L’Enfant Plaza (and similar many minute delays for two other calls) or OUC’s role in the DC Fire & EMS Department’s radio problems. Why did Greene and OUC get a pass and everyone focused, instead, on the fire department?

Mayor Bowser and the DC City Council, stop wasting money on new technology. This is simply a people problem. Start investing in the people at OUC by providing new and experienced management, good hiring practices, real training and procedures that make sense. Don’t wait on this one Mayor Bowser. Failing to start to solve this NOW will haunt your administration in the coming years.

Paul Wagner, WTTG-TV/FOX 5:

A D.C. police officer injured during a scuffle with a man he was trying to arrest waited more than 35 minutes for an ambulance that never came.

Instead, the officer with cuts, bruises and a twisted knee was taken to the hospital in a police cruiser.

Tuesday night,  a couple of police officers were trying to arrest a man in front of a liquor store in Northeast when the man suddenly bolted and one of the officers had to tackle him on the sidewalk.

The officer suffered some scrapes and cuts to his hands and knees and asked for an ambulance. But after 15 minutes of waiting, the only help to arrive on the scene was a fire engine with a crew of firefighters who eventually advised the cops they wouldn’t be seeing an ambulance anytime soon.

According to an officer who was on the scene, the police dispatcher at the 911 center was told repeatedly an ambulance was needed near the intersection of 4th and Rhode Island Avenue but for whatever reason seemed confused.

The officer, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly, says the dispatcher spent about 15 minutes making notification to D.C. Fire and EMS and kept asking for the location over and over again.

According to a timeline obtained by FOX 5, the first help for the officer was dispatched at 6:40 p.m., about 10 minutes after the incident began. That timeline now shows an ambulance was never put on the call and after 38 minutes the police gave up and took the injured officer to the hospital.

This is the latest in a string of troubling incidents involving long waits for ambulances. The Office of Unified Communications says it’s investigating.

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