DC ambulance unnecessarily delayed 11 minutes

A D.C. ambulance was delayed by 11 minutes responding to a dying shooting victim last week after a frantic caller to the D.C. 911 center repeatedly gave the wrong address to a dispatcher, who didn’t catch the mistake and use the technology available at their 911 work station.

It’s not clear getting an ambulance there sooner would have saved the life of the 17-year-old gunshot victim, but public safety blogger Dave Statter of Statter911.com said the 911 dispatcher should have relied on the call’s phone-generated location data.

“What happened was there was the ability to find out the address rapidly, but they didn’t use it,” Statter said.

Work stations used by 911 dispatchers are equipped with software that automatically displays the location of calls.

“It takes the data from your smartphone, like GPS, and it puts it on a map so the 911 call taker can see exactly where that person is,” Statter said.

The interim director of the D.C. Office of Unified Communications — the head of the 911 center — Cleo Subito confirmed the delayed response in an interview with Statter, but pointed out that the frantic caller was making matters tough for the dispatcher.

“It is difficult. Was this a hard call? In my 32 years, it was a rough call,” Subito said.

The dispatcher faced multiple challenges with the caller, trying to calm the panicked caller, give proper instructions, understand the condition of the victim and also learn the disposition of the gun.

“Is this really correct? Did this person accidentally shoot this person? What about the officers and the firefighters that are coming out? How do I ensure I get the information, which she did, about where is the gun , who has the gun … there are so many things coming at you,” Subito said.

Subito said that an additional computer screen would be added to each 911 work station so that the smartphone-generated location data can be more easily viewed by dispatchers and compared to information provided by callers.

Dick Uliano

Whether anchoring the news inside the Glass-Enclosed Nerve Center or reporting from the scene in Maryland, Virginia or the District, Dick Uliano is always looking for the stories that really impact people's lives.

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