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DC radio traffic shows little trust & lots of tension during chaotic shooting scene

Two people shot & related events makes you wonder how well DC 911 will do when the big one happens

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“Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown” is a movie line that has surfaced often over the years when discussing how much time I’ve spent trying to bring attention to the many problems at DC 911. So, it’s fitting the most recent mess actually was in Chinatown–DC’s Chinatown. It isn’t the worst thing from DC 911 I’ve shared, but it isn’t good.

The radio traffic illustrate’s two things. The first, just how bad the tension and mistrust is between those in the field and the people working at the Office of Unified Communications (OUC). The second, while there was a lot thrown at OUC yesterday (Thursday) afternoon–with two nearby shootings and related chaos–it’s nothing compared to a major critical incident like a terrorist attack or other mass casualty event. It has to make you wonder how OUC will perform when the big one hits.

Just after 5:00 p.m., shots were fired near 8th Street and H Street in Northwest. There was a man down. As DC Fire & EMS Department Medic 2 gave a report that CPR was in progress, a DC police car hit the unit (it sounds like you can hear the impact in the recording below). There were no serious injuries. No one was transported from the crash and Medic 2 was still used to take the victim to the hospital.

About six-minutes later, Ambulance 6 was sent to the area of 11th Street and H Street for an injured person. After another three-minutes, the call was upgraded when a report indicated the injured person was actually a second shooting victim. Police say this victim was the suspect from the first shooting. He had been shot in the hand or arm by officers who chased him down.

Between the two scenes–about three blocks apart–there were at least two engine companies, two medic units, two ambulances and two EMS supervisors (along with a battalion chief and safety officer who were sent to investigate the police car-medic unit collision). About seventeen-minutes after this started, things were calming down a bit. That’s when OUC got word there were two police officers injured at 10th and H (It’s not clear if the officers were hurt chasing the suspect or in the collision). Instead of checking if more help was needed by contacting the units on the scene on either side of 10th and H–including the two EMS supervisors–OUC dispatched Engine 3 with Ambulance 6. Ambulance 6 was already at the scene, but not being used. That’s when the real fun started.

As you’ll hear in the audio above, the officer of Engine 3 saw the fleet of fire and EMS units, along with tons of police and wondered why he was there. It turned into a not very pretty radio exchange between Engine 3 and OUC. The OUC dispatcher told Engine 3’s officer to get out of his fire engine to find out the answers to the questions he was asking. It didn’t stop there.

The back and forth between Engine 3 and OUC is just the latest example of increasing tension between the DC Fire & EMS Department and OUC. There are other recent examples here.

In the end, there were two shooting victims transported and two police officers evaluated, but not taken to the hospital. The DC Fire & EMS Department end of this incident lasted about 45-minutes. To get the full context and feel for how it went, the radio traffic is posted immediately above.

Again, this isn’t the worst thing from OUC we’ve published. And not all of it is bad. One dispatcher even quickly adjusted on the fly, working with some of the field units, to send the extra units not needed at the first shooting to handle the second. But compare overall what you hear on this recording to the recordings STATter911 shared Saturday from the 4-alarm plus conflagration in nearby Fairfax County, Virginia. Does anyone really believe DC 911 is ready to handle the big one? I know, “Forget it, Dave. It’s Chinatown.”

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