Chairs Rodgers and Latta Request Briefing from Mayor Bowser on Systemic Failures of D.C. Emergency Communications Services
Washington, D.C. — House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) and Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chair Bob Latta (R-OH) sent a letter to Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser requesting information regarding the District’s chronic issues and mismanagement of the 9-1-1 emergency communications system.
“Slow responses, missed calls, and staffing shortages have had tragic consequences and will continue to endanger lives unless remedied. The OUC [Office of Unified Communications] has a record of grave mistakes that have contributed to the deaths of adults, children, and animals. The OUC sent firefighters to the wrong address for a report of a newborn in cardiac arrest, canceled a call for service about a child unconscious in a hot car, and mischaracterized a handful of emergency calls. Washington, D.C. recently reached a staggering 200 homicides for this year, further emphasizing the importance of accurate and rapid emergency medical services (EMS) response.
- The Washington, D.C. Office of Unified Communications (OUC) has a record of grave mistakes that have contributed to the deaths of adults, children, and animals.
- On April 20, 2023, the 9-1-1 call center mistakenly dispatched emergency crews to the wrong location after a car plunged into the Anacostia River near the Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge. As a result, emergency crews did not arrive on the scene until nearly 16 minutes after the initial call came in regarding the accident.
- On August 14, 2023, during a heavy rainstorm, a miscoding by a 9-1-1 dispatcher resulted in the tragic death of 10 dogs at a northeast D.C. dog daycare center due to flooding.
- These are just several recent examples of the failures by the OUC that have gone unaddressed for years.
- A recent report revealed that 40 percent of D.C. 9-1-1 center shifts were understaffed during the month of August, leading to wait times for callers, including several who were kept on hold for three or four minutes.
- The OUC has also failed to implement urgent audit recommendations, including from a 2021 audit that described “inadequate supervision of call-taking and dispatch operations […] and insufficient management follow-up on after-action reviews.” Further, the audit’s review of priority medical calls from September 2021 to August 2022 revealed the OUC was not meeting national standards on “time-to-answer” measures or “answer to notification” on about half of incoming calls.
- In 2020, Committee Republicans sent a letter to Mayor Bowser regarding similar safety concerns, which never received a response.
- These delays and failures of the District’s 9-1-1 services can mean the difference between life and death for Washington, D.C. residents, and must be resolved.
CLICK HERE to read the full letter, which asked for a response by November 17 to the requests for a copy of the 2021 OUC audit and a briefing on any changes that the OUC will take to correct these failures.