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Mayor defends DC's 911 system despite 'break in protocol' that led to 11-minute ambulance delay

The latest lapse with OUC resulted in help getting to a man having a seizure in an alley, 17.5 minutes after 911 was allegedly first called. That man died.

WASHINGTON — D.C.'s 911 system is once again under scrutiny after District leaders say a break in protocol led to a delay in getting an ambulance to a man suffering from a stroke. That man later died.  

WUSA9 has been following the issues at the Office of Unified Communications closely. A recent auditor's report said critical problems have not been addressed there. Still, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser continues to defend OUC and its interim Director Karima Holmes. The mayor confirmed Wednesday that she nominated Holmes for the permanent position. Holmes left OCU last year when the agency was facing similar problems.  

However, in light of the ongoing concerns with OUC, the Council Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety will hold a three-hour roundtable on Sept. 28 to examine the agency. Councilmember Charles Allen chairs the committee and said they will review the calls in question and determine if D.C.’s 911 system is working as it should. 

RELATED: DC 911 has made 'minimal progress' implementing recommended changes, new audit shows

The latest lapse with OUC resulted in emergency crews getting to a man having a seizure in an alley in the 800 block of Kennedy Street, NW, 17.5 minutes after 911 was first dialed; OUC says their goal for all calls is 6-9 minutes total. CPR was performed but the man ultimately died. The emergency call came in the mid-morning on Sept. 2.  

WUSA9 has learned the first call-taker sent the call to the nurse triage line only to realize seconds later the emergency needed to be upgraded and an ambulance sent immediately. Turns out, that ambulance was never alerted until a third call was finally made about 11 minutes later. It was a break in the protocol that District leaders said led to a 10-day investigation and further training of all call takers.

When asked about the incident the mayor responded by saying she wouldn't respond about a specific call she doesn't know anything about.

"That’s not fair to the public and that’s not fair to the people who answer those calls every single day," Bowser said. "Our call takers show up to do their job under stressful situations every single day and it’s our job to make sure they have the resources they need.”

The issue was first reported by journalist Dave Statter on his blog Statter 911. Statter said this is the sixth case this year where someone died. Statter has long been critical of the agency and its interim director; Mayor Bowser said unfairly so. 

“If you had Dave Statter that was trying to drive out another director or pick out another director in Arlington or Prince George’s County you would find other issues, I have no doubt about that,” Bowser said. 

WUSA9 reached out to Dave Statter for comment who sent this statement:

"Making an issue of the person who uncovered the 10 deaths in three years is one way to address this problem. I've documented some unique issues at DC 911 that industry experts tell me aren't common elsewhere. I will let my reporting stand on its own merits."

RELATED: 'Entire call is under investigation' | DC mayor responds to criticism after 911 delays, infant's death

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