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Police say 911 call-taker ‘misunderstood’ address, sending MD firefighters to wrong location

Montgomery County Police Department issues statement about Friday's incident

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Listen to radio traffic from the fire Friday night

Police in Montgomery County, Maryland say a 911 call-taker “misunderstood the caller” Friday night when firefighters were sent to the wrong address for a report of a house fire. The Montgomery County Police Department operates the Emergency Communications Center (ECC) and issued a statement today (Monday) about the error. Two people and a dog were still in the home when firefighters arrived to handle a small bedroom fire. The original erroneous location is about ten miles from the home where the fire occurred.

Some things to note in the statement below. It took the ECC two to three minutes to dispatch the original call to the wrong location. NFPA standards say the call processing for this type of incident should be handled within 60-seconds, 90 percent of the time. The statement does not indicate if there were other cues missed that could have corrected the erroneous dispatch earlier. The call-taker provided assistance while staying on the phone with the caller who was in the house, apparently unable to leave without assistance.

And one final thing worth noting. When you have the police department writing about a fire you get a statement like this one: “MCFRS personnel were able to neutralize a fire that had started on the 2nd floor of the residence …”.

Statement from Montgomery County Police Department:

Statement Regarding the Emergency Communications Center Call for Service Processing Error for Fire/Rescue Call on December 6, 2019

On Friday December 6, 2019, at 10:18 p.m., the Montgomery County Emergency Communications Center (911) received a call requesting assistance for smoke in the residence at 2005 Prichard Road in Wheaton. The call-taker misunderstood the caller and entered the address as 2005 Piccard Drive in Rockville, and then continued to get further details from the caller. Montgomery County Fire and Rescue personnel were dispatched to the Piccard Drive address while the call-taker remained on the phone. After an additional verification of the address by the call-taker, the address was corrected to 2005 Prichard Road and Montgomery County Fire and Rescue personnel were dispatched to the Prichard Road address in Wheaton.

A timeline of the event is provided below:

Call received at ECC at 10:18 p.m. – Sent to Dispatch at 10:21 p.m.

MCFRS dispatched to 2005 Piccard Drive in Rockville at 10:21 p.m.

MCFRS arrived at Piccard Drive address at 10:25 p.m. – nothing found

Call-taker corrects address to 2005 Prichard Road at 10:25 p.m

MCFRS dispatched to Prichard Road address at 10:27 p.m.

MCFRS arrived at Prichard Road address at 10:31 p.m.

MCFRS personnel were able to neutralize a fire that had started on the 2nd floor of the residence and all residents were safely removed from the home and provided medical treatment for non-life threatening injuries. During the call, the call-taker stayed on the phone with the caller for close to 10 minutes, obtaining additional information and providing instructions for the caller to move to a safer location.

This incident is still under review and appropriate actions will be taken to mitigate the chances of such an error occurring in the future. We continue to work with our MCFRS partners to provide expeditious responses to incidents within Montgomery County.

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