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Watchdog says DC agency needs to be investigated after Fire & EMS sent to wrong address 30+ times

DC’s Office of Unified Communications (OUC) handles the 311 and 911 calls in the District. Are those calls being mishandled? Our #TheQandA is here with that answer.

WASHINGTON — The mission of the DC Office of Unified Communications is to provide a fast, professional and cost-effective response to emergency and non-emergency calls in the District. 

But according to Ward 4 ANC commissioner Evan Yeats, and former WUSA9 reporter Dave Statter, OUC isn’t delivering on that mission.

"Since December, I've logged 35 different calls that went to the wrong address -- just to Fire and EMS," Statter said. 

In addition to being a former WUSA9 reporter, Statter is the founder of Statter911, a website that tracks Fire & EMS issues across the U.S. He’s also a former firefighter, EMT, dispatcher and cardiac rescue technician.

RELATED: Firefighters were dispatched to the wrong address. Now, officials want to know what went wrong

"My time as a dispatcher was 40 some years ago. That was before computers," Statter said. "I was a fire dispatcher in Prince George's County, but we had to know the county, we had to know the roads, we had to understand how the system works. If you don't know that and you're just reading off a screen and what the computer tells you, you're going to fail."

According to documents from OUC -- the department that handles 311 and 911 calls -- in 2019 there were only four calls dispatched to the wrong location. But Satter said he’s seen almost 10 times that many so far in 2020. He believes OUC needs to be investigated.

"I've been able to find 35 different times that FEMS were sent to the wrong address, and they've only found 21 in five years," Statter said. "I don't think it's gotten that much worse this year than previous years. I'm really concerned that the data submitted by OUC is not accurate."

WUSA9 reached out to Karima Holmes, director of OUC, for comment, but have not heard back yet. 

Dispatching in D.C. is a complex issue, as the District borders two states.

Credit: WUSA9
Dir. Karima Holmes, Office of Unified Communications

Evan Yeats, an ANC in ward 4, doesn’t know who’s at fault, but he’s asking for answers, which is why he said he wrote a letter to the Office of D.C.'s Auditor to request that OUC be investigated. 

"Maybe the auditor will come back and say there's nothing wrong, that everything's working in the way it's supposed to be and these are just part of having the volume that they do and you expect some human error to occur," Yeats said. 

The Office of D.C.’s Auditor said they will consider the request for an audit when they develop their fiscal year 2021 audit work plan, which they said usually happens in late summer.  

OUC said if need be, they are open to an audit. 

RELATED: 'I'm frustrated and I'm angry!' | Survivor of deadly fire says DCRA continues to fail residents

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