St. Mary’s probes 911 break­down

Guy re­quests in­for­ma­tion from em­ploy­ees af­ter in­fant boy died

The Enterprise - - Front Page - By JA­SON BAB­COCK jbab­cock@somd­

The St. Mary’s County com­mis­sion­ers said Tues­day that an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into a com­mu­ni­ca­tions fail­ure last week at the emer­gency dis­patch cen­ter con­tin­ues, and so­licited in­for­ma­tion un­der the county’s whistle­blower pol­icy.

“There was a mess-up. I’ve got to ad­mit … where the chiefs were not no­ti­fied. Why? I don’t know,” Randy Guy (R), pres­i­dent of the county com­mis­sion­ers, said. “We need to get in­for­ma­tion out to the public that’s cor­rect, and not jump to con­clu­sions within hours or days.”

Emer­gency ser­vices “is a very im­por­tant func­tion” for the com­mu­nity, he said. “But we can’t solve the prob­lem if it doesn’t come from the bot­tom up. If you don’t feel you’re get­ting the sup­port,” an em­ployee can go to the county ad­min­is­tra­tor or pres­i­dent of the com­mis­sion­ers, Guy said.

“We have a whistle­blower pol­icy in our county that we will take any in­forma-

tion and work it, and there will be no re­course against you or any­one else,” he said.

There was a break­down at the St. Mary’s 911 cen­ter in Leonard­town in the early-morn­ing hours of Tues­day, Oct. 24. The St. Mary’s County Depart­ment of Emer­gency Ser­vices and Tech­nol­ogy learned of an is­sue af­ter a 4:15 a.m. ra­dio com­mu­ni­ca­tion from a deputy.

“Im­me­di­ately we tran­si­tioned to our por­ta­ble backup ra­dios and were able to com­mu­ni­cate with all field units,” an Oct. 26 state­ment from the depart­ment said. The deputy di­rec­tor and a ra­dio tech were con­tacted and “test pages were per­formed which con­firmed an is­sue with pag­ing,” ac­cord­ing to the state­ment.

At 6:35 a.m. on Oct. 24, the

911 cen­ter re­ceived a call for an un­re­spon­sive two-week-old in­fant in Lex­ing­ton Park who was not breath­ing. The alerts were broad­casted at 6:36 a.m. to Bay Dis­trict Vol­un­teer Fire Depart­ment, to the Lex­ing­ton Park Vol­un­teer Res­cue Squad and to the Ad­vanced Life Sup­port Unit, ac­cord­ing to the depart­ment of emer­gency ser­vices and tech­nol­ogy.

The St. Mary’s County Sher­iff’s Of­fice and Mary­land State Po­lice were also dis­patched. The sher­iff’s of­fice was on the scene of the call at 6:43 a.m. at the same time as the Bay Dis­trict Vol­un­teer Fire Depart­ment, whose mem­bers be­gan CPR on the boy, but the baby did not sur­vive.

Sev­eral vol­un­teer first re­spon­ders were crit­i­cal of the com­mu­ni­ca­tions prob­lem last week. “We were never no­ti­fied that the sys­tem was down,” Shawn David­son, chief of the Lex­ing­ton Park Vol­un­teer Res­cue Squad, said. “You can’t an­swer a call that you don’t know ex­ists.”

Com­mis­sioner Mike He­witt (R) on Tues­day called the death of the in­fant “a ter­ri­ble tragedy in this county.” He added, “Peo­ple need to un­der­stand that they can trust county gov­ern­ment. They can trust our emer­gency ser­vices to be able to re­spond ef­fi­ciently and on time.”

There has been “con­fu­sion” and “con­ster­na­tion” about the emer­gency com­mu­ni­ca­tions sys­tem, He­witt said. “This com­mis­sioner, Mike He­witt, is com­mit­ted to a top-down re­view, a top-to-bot­tom re­view of what is go­ing on with our com­mu­ni­ca­tions. It is un­ac­cept­able that some­thing goes down and not all the stake­hold­ers are no­ti­fied. Some­thing’s wrong,” he said.

Com­mis­sioner John O’Con­nor (R), a mem­ber of the Ad­vanced Life Sup­port Unit, has asked for an in­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the mat­ter, but He­witt said he’d like to see the county’s in­ter­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion run its course.

O’Con­nor said, “A top-down re­view is ab­so­lutely some­thing we need to do. We need to have trust in our com­mu­ni­ca­tions,” and noted the first-re­spon­der chiefs in the au­di­ence of the com­mis­sion­ers meet­ing on Tues­day.

“I sup­port any­thing we can do to re­build the gap that we have,” he said.

Com­mis­sioner Todd Mor­gan (R) said, “I rec­og­nize there are is­sues out there. We will get to the bot­tom of this sit­u­a­tion at the end of the day.”

Guy said, “We’re still in the gath­er­ing mode” about the ra­dio fail­ure. He said he knows there are con­cerns in the first-re­spon­der com­mu­nity, and they are frus­trated there isn’t more in­for­ma­tion.

“We’ve al­ready ad­dressed our man­age­ment prob­lem,” Guy said. “We’ve al­ready talked about that. We’ve gone through time­lines. We’ve gone through emails,” he said.

A con­sole went down, he said, but the emer­gency ser­vices and tech­nol­ogy team re­sponded within 30 min­utes and the sys­tem “was more or less up” by 7:15 a.m. that morn­ing, he said.

“I have great con­fi­dence in the peo­ple out there that re­sponded to the backup sys­tem,” Guy said.


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