DC mayor calls for changes after delayed emergency response times

Changes are coming to D.C. Fire and EMS after FOX 5's exclusive reports on delayed emergency response times in the District.

Earlier this month, an 18-month-old boy being fed grapes began to choke and stopped breathing.  A paramedic was just three blocks away, but never put on the call.  The boy later died. Also this month, a D.C. police officer injured while trying to make an arrest waited 35 minutes for an ambulance that never came.

A FOX 5 investigation found tablets installed in units are fed by Wi-Fi hotspots that are having trouble staying connected to the 911 center. Therefore, the Office of Unified Communications cannot locate them during an emergency.

On Tuesday, Mayor Muriel Bowser announced changes to department operations, including additional training on the tablets used for communications.

"Is the technology itself flawed? I don't believe so. We know that anytime there is a huge deployment of new technology there's generally a period of time for testing.  We believe that period of time happened more quickly than it should have to get all the bugs worked out. We also need to make sure everyone's trained in it," said Bowser.

The plan also calls for 10 more ambulances out on the streets during peak call times from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Friday.

"We're not concerned about staffing. So we can put additional people on the apparatus. If we have to use additional overtime we will, so we're not concerned about staffing," said Bowser.

The mayor says the city plans to add personnel, but in the meantime they will continue with additional overtime. She also says the department will be meeting twice a week with officials in the 911 center to troubleshoot any problems with the tablets and communications. D.C. Fire and EMS says they are ready to move forward with the changes.

As many as five medic units will be staffed with a paramedic from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and up to five ambulances will be staffed from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. The number of transport units deployed will be determined by the amount members who make themselves available for overtime.
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