Nearly a year after a scathing report on DC’s 911 call center, the DC Auditor’s Office says “minimal progress” has been made.
The DC Office of the Auditor says efforts to resolve longstanding issues within the Office of Unified Communications, which operates the 911 call center, have produced only “minimal progress.”
“There is no government service more important than responding to medical emergencies,” DC Auditor Kathy Patterson said in a statement. “And we are failing to meet the needs of the residents of the district. Period.”
His comments come nearly a year after a scathing report found the 911 center was struggling to send emergency crews to the right places and failing to meet national standards.
Last fall, the auditor’s office released a report with a long list of recommendations for the agency, calling for better supervision of staff and measures to reduce confusion in the call-taking process and to correct call distribution issues.
However, an interim report from the auditor’s office released on Friday notes that only one recommendation has been fully implemented. The majority of recommendations – 24 out of 31 – have seen only minimal progress, according to the report.
“It’s not good news,” Patterson told WTOP in an interview. Showing only minimal progress on virtually every recommendation, she said, was tantamount to “a failing grade.”
The status report is a first look at a full follow-up planned for later this year.
The auditor’s office contracted public safety communications consulting firm Federal Engineering for the original report and follow-up.
There were two other cases of delays in sending teams to emergency calls over the summer, resulting in the deaths of two young people.
In one case, parents of a 2-day-old baby who had stopped breathing called 911, but emergency crews were sent to Savannah Street instead of Savannah Terrace, where the couple lived. In the other, officials acknowledged it took 13 minutes for paramedics to arrive after a call about a toddler left in a car.
The auditor said the follow-up report will look at what happened on those calls, as well as how the OUC handled the errors.
One of the main recommendations of the initial report was to increase the involvement of supervisors in the field to help operators and to add four additional supervisors – one for each shift. But eight months after the first report was published, that still hasn’t happened.
“The mayor could have included funding for these positions; the board could have included funding for those positions – and that didn’t happen,” Patterson said.
A little more progress has been made in deploying mapping technology to help operators locate people calling for help.
“There has been training given but, again, not where we need to be,” she said.
911 chief responds
Responding to the live report on WAMU”Political hour with Kojo Nnamdi”, the acting director of the OUC, Karima Holmes, said that she agreed with the majority of the recommendations of the report last fall, but said that she had only since returned to her position. a few months at the time the follow-up audit was carried out.
Holmes previously led the agency between 2016 and 2020, and left amid scrutiny of call center mistakes. She was rehired by DC Mayor Muriel Bowser earlier this year.
Holmes said the agency has developed an updated roadmap to complete the recommendations and said it will share more details at a DC Council oversight hearing scheduled for later this month.
Holmes also pointed to a summary of the auditor’s most recent findings, which stated that his appointment, along with the hiring of a new 911 operations manager, were “considered positive changes by front-line personnel.” “.
Holmes also said the OUC, like many public safety agencies across the county, was struggling with workload, stress and attrition and, at one point, had lost about 60 employees, which which she called “unprecedented”.
Bowser has still not submitted Holmes’s nomination to the DC Council, in violation of the DC Code, which requires nominations of agency directors to be made within 180 days of a vacancy. But she publicly defended Holmes as a solid leader of the agency.
At a press conference this week, Bowser said examples of errors in calls handled by OUC — many of which highlighted on Twitter by safety advocate and former journalist Dave Statter – amounted to “selected” information.
Patterson, the listener, replied: ‘When there is a result that is a bad result, it is a horrific experience for the family of the deceased or seriously injured person. I think calling it “cherry-picking” was a moment of insensitivity, and I’m sure the mayor regrets saying that.
For her part, Holmes said the agency takes mistakes seriously and investigates them after the fact to find out what went wrong. She said there had only been seven cases of wrong addresses coming from OUC in the past three years, out of a total of 10 million calls handled by the bureau.
“We save lives every day in this building,” she said on WAMU. “And I just want to make sure that doesn’t get missed in all the noise.”
Patterson said she believes there are likely more wrong addresses than seven, and that the goal of her office’s reporting is to encourage policies and practices that reduce and reduce late responses to people in crisis.
“We will never get completely to zero. There will always be accidents; we are all human, Patterson said. “But trying to get that number as close to zero as possible – that’s the goal.”