D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser rebuffed criticism and defended the city’s 911 call center Wednesday against accusations that six people have died so far this year, after 911 call takers delayed sending help because of mistakes.
The public safety blog Statter911.com reported this week that the latest incident occurred Sept. 2, when a call to 911 was mishandled and there was an 11-minute delay dispatching an ambulance to a man who had collapsed and later died.
“I can’t answer specifics about a specific call if I haven’t reviewed it … I think you know when people call 911, often times they’re very sick, and sometimes there’s nothing we can do to help,” Bowser said.
The blog, written by former TV journalist Dave Statter, reported that other D.C. officials acknowledged that mistakes were made handling the call two weeks ago.
Bowser said that she is focused on ensuring that the city has the best personnel possible, both staff and supervisors, at the 911 call center, known as the Office of Unified Communications, and that they have the training and the resources necessary.
Bowser acknowledged that other 911 call centers in Northern Virginia and suburban Maryland are not subject to the same criticism as the District’s 911 call center.
“It doesn’t have to do with performance, I can tell you that, because if you had Dave Statter that was trying to drive out another director or pick a director in Arlington or in Prince George’s, you would find an equal number of instances where people have questions. I have no doubt about that,” Bowser said.
Statter said that the problem at D.C. 911 has long been one of management — midlevel supervisors and upper management — not necessarily the 911 staff, and he said improvements could be made in the pay structure and the operating protocols.