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Baby born at home in serious distress, but DC firefighters dispatched to wrong address

It took almost 45 minutes after the first call for medics to finally get to the baby and mother. And by that time, it may have been too late.

WASHINGTON — D.C.'s 911 call center dispatched firefighters to the wrong address, but this time it was for a newborn baby in cardiac arrest.

Safety advocates want to know when the call center will figure out how to fix a wrong address issue that seems to crop up frequently.

There are several things still unknown about this May 17 emergency call. It is uncertain whether the baby survived or died. We don't know how the baby's mother is coping, and we don't know why firefighters were sent to the wrong address.

But what is very clear from the radio transmissions is that D.C.'s 911 call center, or Office of Unified Communications, dispatched help to the incorrect location and that it took almost 45 minutes for medics to finally get to the mom and baby.

The story was first reported on the website Statter911.com, run by former WUSA9 reporter and long-time safety advocate Dave Statter. 

RELATED: Shaquana Bates' son was stillborn. She blames ambulance delay

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On the recorded radio call, you can hear the dispatcher say, "Childbirth. Baby delivered. At 3100 Wisconsin Avenue NW." It was just after 3:30 a.m.

"We're going to 3100 Wisconsin Avenue, correct?" asked a firefighter aboard Engine 20.

But it was not correct. And when Engine 20 found nothing at that location, the operator put them back in service.

Then she called Engine 31 and dispatched it to the correct location at 4100 Massachusetts Ave. NW.

Instead of sending Engine 20, which despite being at the wrong address was just over half a mile from the right one, the operator dispatched firefighters who were more than two miles away. 

"We're at 4100 Mass Ave. NW, do you have a room number?" Engine 31 asks on the radio when it gets there. 

It has been nearly 45 minutes from the initial call, and now the radio transmissions show the newborn is in cardiac arrest. 

"CPR in progress," says a firefighter on the radio. "Is it the mother the CPR is for, or the newborn child?" the dispatcher asks. "The newborn child," the firefighter responds.

When asked about the newborn and another cardiac arrest incident at a DC Council hearing this week, OUC Director Karima Holmes appeared confused.

 "The last two that I recall, maybe right at the start of COVID, or before COVID, if we're talking about the same one," she said. "One of the incidents, it was an error on the operator side, that was handled as a personnel issue. And then one the caller gave the wrong address." 

But the incident with the newborn was in May, well into the COVID pandemic, so it's unclear if she was talking about two previous incidents.

"What surprises me is there is no political leadership, no councilmember, nobody, raising hell about this," Statter said. 

Neither the mayor's office, the call center director, nor the Council Public Safety Chairman have responded to WUSA9 messages about what happened to the newborn. 

RELATED: Probe into DC baby's death & ambulance delay

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