D.C. reviews paramedic response to choking toddler

WASHINGTON – The District’s response to a choking toddler, who later died, has prompted a review into why the nearest available paramedic was not dispatched.

Instead of sending a paramedic just three blocks away from the home, the unit dispatched was more than a mile from the Tenleytown neighborhood.

While it will be impossible to determine if the toddler would have survived had the closer unit responded, the tragic death has brought new scrutiny to a department already hobbled by missteps.

“Whatever happened, we can’t let it happen again,” says Kevin Donahue, the District’s deputy city administrator. “So we have to understand why.”

Two theories have emerged.

The first is human error, which would have improperly identified the nearest paramedic as not being available, though it was. The second is a failure of the new technology on the apparatus.

“The outcome of this is tragic, and we want to look at everything we did, everything we could have done,” Donahue says.

Every fire station in the District will be retrained to use the computer equipment on the apparatus correctly.

“We’re looking at the technology to see if the technology is having any remaining glitches from its implementation that causes something other than the closest available unit to be dispatched to the scene,” he says.

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