The District of Columbia will be paying for a long time because of the neglect by previous administrations in dealing with the major problems at the city’s 911 center. The latest mistake happened a week ago on the day before new DC Fire & EMS Department chief Gregory Dean started. But while a separate agency, the DC Office of Unified Communications (OUC), runs the 911 center, Chief Dean and the acting head of OUC, Homeland Security Emergency Management Agency Director Chris Geldart, apologized to the parents of a toddler who had to wait 23 minutes for help after the boy was knocked unconscious.
This is actually a good sign for DC. Instead of trying to cover-up, the new administration appears to be dealing with these problems head-on. This includes asking for the resignation last Monday of former OUC director Jennifer Greeene and vowing to clean house. The final straw for Greene, as we reported, was her testimony before the DC City Council on April 27 suggesting that instead of trying to meet the 90-second call handling standard that the agency lower that standard.
Make sure you listen to Chief Dean’s remarks about the future of DC 911. Dean is talking about the very same issues we’ve been highlighting. These problems, if not corrected, would undermine any efforts at finally making major improvements in EMS in the Nation’s Capital. Good start, Chief Dean. Let’s hope the DC Fire & EMS Department will play a big role in oversight at OUC.
D.C. is investigating the latest ambulance delay, in which the closest units did not respond to a 911 call.
Nina and Richard Rose described it as the scariest 23 minutes of their lives – the time between their 1-year-old son being knocked unconscious and help arriving.
“He was completely unresponsive at first, and for a minute I thought that he was dead or dying, which is why I lost my mind and started screaming,” Nina Rose said.
Dispatch records obtained by News4 show the first call to 911 was made at 10:10 a.m. Sunday after the boy fell down the porch steps and hit his head. Despite the 1 year old being unconscious, the dispatcher listed his condition as conscious and rated the emergency as minor.
“After just five minutes we were getting concerned,” Richard Rose said. “After 10 minutes I called back to say what’s the deal.”
There were at least three calls to 911. After more than 23 minutes, an ambulance arrived, but records show it wasn’t the closest available unit or even the second closest unit.
“I felt like at that point I could have gotten him to Sibley (Memorial Hospital), the ER, in that amount of time we had been waiting,” Nina Rose said.
Dispatch records show a second ambulance and a fire truck were also dispatched but never arrived.
In the end, the boy regained consciousness and was diagnosed with a concussion.
The next day, Nina Rose sent emails to her council member and the mayor, then she got a call from new Fire Chief Gregory Dean and D.C. Homeland Security Emergency Management Agency Director Chris Geldart saying they were sorry.
“We were sorry that her experience with the D.C. fire department was not a positive experience and we were looking forward to showing her we were going to make positive steps,” Dean said.
“We both want the residents to expect what we expect if something happens to our children, that the services are going to be there when you call them, and we’re going to work hard to make sure they are,” Geldart said.
A senior official with Mayor Muriel Bowser’s administration said this is how they plan to handle mistakes, by immediately owning up to them, making direct contact with the residents involved and working to fix the problem.
“It actually made me feel so much better,” Nina Rose said. “I’m so glad that it seems like they’re taking a new approach. They seemed very responsive.”