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“Overall, my thoughts about it is that there was no delay, no slow response.” The assessment of Karima Holmes, the 911 director in the District of Columbia, when asked why it took four-minutes and one-second to dispatch firefighters and EMS to a deadly house fire on Kennedy Street, Northwest. To Holmes, a call processing time that’s two-minutes and thirty-seconds more than her center’s own 90-second standard (based on the National Fire Protection Association standard) is not that big of a deal. That’s because it’s just business as usual at the Office of Unified Communications (OUC) where the average turn-around time on 911 calls has long been well above that standard.
The excuses from Holmes are as ridiculous as the one her agency released in a statement to WTTG-TV/FOX5 reporter Paul Wagner last week. In that statement, PIO wrote it took longer to process the Kennedy Street call because the police officer who spotted the burning home called it in through his police department issued radio and not by phone. In the interview with WTOP Radio’s Liz Anderson, Holmes reveals another excuse when she points out, “we actually had another life-threatening call, a priority-one medical call.”
The message OUC leadership has for us is the 911 center can’t promptly process and dispatch two high priority calls at once and can’t quickly send help when it’s requested by a police officer. Anyone see a problem with any of this, or is just me?
OUC director Holmes makes clear she doesn’t see a problem with lengthy dispatch times. Holmes acts like OUC has given up on ever meeting the 90-second standard. She says prompt dispatching of calls is not the metric we should be looking at. Holmes told WTOP’s Anderson, “So what we’ve done in the industry, we’ve shied away from rushing through calls, and we really looked at the quality of a call — and that’s what you have here.”
What do you think 9-year-old Yafet Solomon and 40-year-old Fitsum Kebede would say about the quality of the call handled by OUC when they were trapped in that burning home? What do you think they’d tell us about those extra minutes and seconds they waited to be rescued? Do you think they’d be impressed by the quality of the call? What do you think Carole Glover would say about the quality of the call that took almost six minutes to dispatch while she gasped for air on the floor of a smoke-filled Metro car more than four-years-ago?
Of course, we can’t speak with Yafet, Fitsum and Carole. They’re dead. All three are victims of a 911 center that doesn’t believe every second counts in an emergency. Imagine how many other Yafets, Fitsums and Caroles there are who didn’t get prompt service from a 911 center where dispatching help as if lives depended on it is not as important as “the quality of a call”.