Man dies waiting for ambulance; firefighter's union blames dispatch

Responders have been complaining for weeks that new dispatch technology isn’t working; this incident is one example of that

WASHINGTON — D.C. officials have launched an investigation into why it took as long as 22 minutes to get help to a dying man.

MyFoxDC reported that the incident happened last week when someone called 911 to say a 31-year-old man had collapsed in a field.

The 6 p.m. call for a “person down” went to Engine 23, located a few blocks away from where the distressed patient was. However, they couldn’t find the man.

Then, a few minutes later, a police officer found the man lying on his back. He was unconscious and unresponsive. 911 dispatched another ambulance and engine, even though both were miles away.

Records show both units arrived on scene at 6:34 p.m. with the “subject on ambulance going into cardiac arrest,” according to the report.

Patient Jeffrey Scott Delay was pronounced dead after arriving at a hospital.

Responders have been complaining that new dispatch technology isn’t working. They say ambulances and fire trucks have been answering calls that could be handled by units located closer to emergencies.

The union blames the problem on new wireless technology and the computer tablets that go with it.

The union says the technology has glitches and that dispatchers are having trouble keeping track of the equipment on the street, according to the report.

"There are computer issues because we are implementing a new system and anytime you are implementing a new system you are going to have those issues”, said Interim Fire Chief Eugene Jones. “And the Office of Unified Communications is working through that to make sure the equipment we use is working."

In the meantime, Chief Jones said they’re reverting back to radios.

“It is not something I'm concerned about, but obviously when personnel go from one system to another there are issues they identify and we have to respond to that,” he said.

Union President Ed Smith released the following statement: 

“This is a case of our firefighters being set up to fail by the Office of Unified Communication (911 Center) pushing new technology into the field that was not properly tested. The new computers failed and continue to do so. Unfortunately, the firefighters performing at their usual high level wasn't enough to overcome the bad decision making by the 911 Center.”

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