Newborn dies, DC 911 sent crews to wrong address

A day-old baby girl died earlier this month, after D.C. 911 dispatched emergency crews to the wrong address for a newborn in cardiac distress.

Safety advocate Dave Statter, on his Statter911 website, said the parents of the newborn woke up, on July 3, to find their daughter not breathing and called 911.

According to Statter, and D.C.’s Office of Unified Communications, which operates the 911 center, the caller said the family lived on Savannah Terrace, Southeast.

However, the call taker mistakenly entered Savannah Street into the computer dispatch system, sending crews to an address several blocks from where they were needed.

“Eight minutes into the 911 call, while the call taker was giving the mother CPR instructions, the call taker realized they messed up the address and tried to correct it, but in doing so, they didn’t put it in the computer system in a way that would show an address change,” Statter told WTOP.

The first fire crew that arrived at the incorrect address found nobody home, and asked the call taker to verify the address where the baby was in distress.

“No one told D.C. Fire and EMS crews responding of the correct address, even though it was in the computer system,” in the call taker’s corrected notes, according to Statter.

Meanwhile, the child’s mother and father were waiting for help to arrive.

“All the time she [the mother] was talking to 911, doing CPR on her 1-day-old daughter,” said Statter.

Statter said an EMS supervisor reported seeing “Savannah Terrace” in the dispatcher’s notes, which display “not only throughout the 911 center, but on computer screens in firehouses, along with emergency vehicles.”

According to the preliminary call timeline provided by the District’s Office of Communications, the first medic unit arrived at the Savannah Terrace Southeast address 10 minutes after the initial 911 call.

The child was pronounced dead at Children’s Hospital.

“No one can say with certainty whether this little girl would have survived with a faster response, but it’s clear that potential lifesaving roles of firefighters, medics and police officers are hampered when there’s delays like this,” said Statter.

“This is a situation where when seconds count, minutes are being lost.”

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Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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