Dispatch fails to send additional alarm to DC firefighters — twice

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Sorry, but when there is a ten-minute delay in sending an additional alarm in the Nation’s Capital you don’t get to make the excuse there was an equipment problem. That’s an extremely serious training issue — period.

Those who work in 911 centers must be able to function when computers fail. It’s neglect of duty by those in charge if they have not properly prepared the staff in DC to handle this situation.

Blaming it on equipment — as Office of Unified Communications (OUC) officials are doing in the Peabody Street incident — is an attempt to excuse the inexcusable. This is the same BS OUC has pulled many times — blaming equipment for what are personnel, system and training issues. Here’s an example from 2011.

DC’s 911 center must be able to recover and function at an acceptable level when computers crash. This requires personnel with a good working knowledge of the city along with an understanding of the inner workings of fire, EMS and police. It also requires excellent training on back-up procedures that work. The response from OUC tells me the 911 center in the Nation’s Capital doesn’t meet such standards.

Paul Wagner, WTTG-TV/FOX 5:

In the last two weeks, commanders at the scene of two major fires in the District have asked for extra crews to help. However, they did not arrive as fast as it should have due to issues with 911 computers. In one case, it took ten minutes for the 911 center to dispatch support staff. Now, the firefighters’ union is pointing fingers at the city’s Office of Unified Communications (OUC).

Last month, firefighters were battling an apartment building blaze on Peabody Street in Northwest D.C. for well over two hours when the commander on scene asked for a third alarm. Here is what was heard on D.C. Fire radio transmission.

Commander: “Command 4 to communications.”

Dispatcher: “Come in Command 4.”

Commander: “Go ahead and sound the third alarm. Have them stage at Georgia and Peabody.”

But three minutes later when the commander doesn’t hear the call go out over the radio, this is the response he gets from the dispatcher.

Dispatcher: “Okay sir. We’re, umm, getting it now.”

Six minutes after the commander asked for the help, it is finally sent. It is a delay the firefighters’ union said is unacceptable.

However, seven days later, it happened again during a major fire on U Street. The commander asks for more help as the fire begins to spread.

Commander: “Command 6 to communications.”

Dispatcher: “Come in Command 6.”

Commander: “Can I get a list of my second alarm companies?”

Dispatcher: “We are having computer problems. We are not able to get our second alarm units out there. It is not coming up on the board.”

The firefighters’ union said as the fire spread, ten minutes went by before the units were even dispatched.

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