Four 911 dispatches needed to get help to man lying on highway in DC

It took 14 minutes and four 911 dispatches to different locations to hone-in on an injured pedestrian, lying in the middle of a highway running through the nation’s capital.

Located behind the Kennedy Center — the I-66 Potomac Freeway, located between the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge and 27th St. NW — is a stretch of highway that thousands of commuters use daily, but few know the name.

“It’s a confusing area, to say the least,” said safety advocate Dave Statter, of Statter911. The former reporter has been a longtime observer, and frequent critic of District of Columbia’s Office of Unified Communications, which operates DC 911.

“The public, when they’re in that area, often don’t know where they are,” said Statter. “That’s why it’s so important that 911 know the road systems intimately, particularly the interstate highways, so they can help the public.”

“We don’t have good signage in the highway system in the District of Columbia,” said Statter. “The Southwest-Southeast Freeway, I-95, DC 295, and what happened yesterday.”

In an area with overpasses, tunnels, surface streets, dispatchers sent crews to New Hampshire Avenue, Rock Creek Parkway, Virginia Avenue, and eventually the correct location.

“We can’t expect every 911 call taker to know every road in the District, but the interstate highways are where frequent calls occur, and you need to know every exit, you need to know the landmarks,” said Statter. “It’s part of the training you should go through, before you answer calls for 911.”

The man was transported to the hospital in critical but stable condition.

WTOP asked the Office of Unified Communications to comment, Tuesday morning, and will update the story when one is provided.


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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