The Washington Post
Firefighters given wrong address in report of cardiac arrest
The D.C. agency responsible for handling 911 calls acknowledged Thursday that it sent firefighters and paramedics to the incorrect address for a report of a newborn baby in cardiac arrest, resulting in a delay of about a minute before help reached the infant, who was pronounced dead at a hospital.
In a statement offering “our deepest sympathies” to the family of the day-old girl, the D.C. Office of Unified Communications said a 911 operator erroneously entered an address on Savannah Street SE instead of Savannah Terrace SE into the dispatch system after receiving a call about the child at 2:26:03 a.m. on July 3. The two addresses are less than a half-mile apart.
An internal investigation of the incident found that a firetruck, Engine 32, arrived at the incorrect address at 2:35:03 a.m., nine minutes after the call, the agency said. In an interview, OUC’S chief of staff, Kelly Brown, said that because the two addresses are “just around the corner from each other,” Engine 32 probably would have arrived at the infant’s home around the same time, 2:35:03 a.m., if it had been dispatched correctly.
A fire department paramedic unit, Medic 25, which went to the correct address without a delay, was the first to arrive, at 2:36:23 a.m. That was 80 seconds after Engine 32 might have arrived if it had been sent to the correct location, according to a timeline released Thursday by OUC. Whether the delay of about a minute contributed to the baby’s death is unclear.
“I really can’t get into whether the child could have been saved,” Brown said. She did not comment on whether the call-taker has been disciplined. The parents of the infant did not respond Thursday to phone messages seeking comment.
The incident was first reported by the website Statter911.com, which covers news about fire departments and emergency medical services.
After the 911 operator received the call for help and mistakenly entered Savannah Street instead of Savannah Terrace, she began giving the caller CPR instructions while first responders were dispatched to Savannah Street at 2:27:33 a.m., according to the timeline.
Kelly said Medic 25 was dispatched from a station nearly two miles from Savannah Street and Savannah Terrance, and Engine 32 was dispatched from a station about a half-mile away.
At 2:34:21 a.m. — a little less than seven minutes after first responders had been dispatched — the call-taker corrected the address in the computerized “call dispatch notes” but failed to correct it the system’s “incident location field,” the investigation found. As a result, Engine 32 continued to the incorrect address, arriving 42 seconds after the partial correction.
However, the personnel in Medic 25, coming from farther away, had time to read the “dispatch notes,” and they went “directly to the correct address without delay,” Brown said.