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7 first responders singled out for discipline after DC officer waits 20 minutes for ambulance

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WASHINGTON -

Seven people, including a fire captain, two firefighters and four medics, have been singled out for discipline after an injured D.C. police officer waited more than 20 minutes for an ambulance.

A report released Thursday says the captain failed to properly monitor the situation on March 5th when the officer was hit by a car. The other six were in ambulances that were improperly out of service.

As FOX 5 first reported Tuesday night, the investigation singled out three ambulance crews for not monitoring their radios after going out of service the evening of March 5.

Medic 27 was east of the Anacostia River and the closest when Officer Sean Hickman was seriously injured in a hit-and-run.

But the first responder taking the bulk of the blame is the captain working that day as the emergency liaison officer.

According to the report prepared by the Deputy Mayor for Public Safety, the fire captain was working inside the Office of Unified Communications and should have known an officer was down and dispatchers were looking for help.

But the captain, even though he has access to the same data, status information and data screens, was unaware the dispatchers asked for an ambulance to come from Prince George's County.

"The ELO (Emergency Liaison officer) could have said to the units who had requested relief, ‘No, we are low on available units. You need to stay in service so we can make sure that we are covered,’” said Paul Quander, the Deputy Mayor for Public Safety. “He didn't do that. Nor did the ELO monitor the situation and return those units to service, which he has the ability to do.”

Quander says the emergency liaison officer is a gatekeeper who keeps his eyes open for problems and makes adjustments if needed.

"I think that it was a major failure that evening," he said.

But Union President Ed Smith disagrees and says the problem lies within the system.

“The ELO is specifically monitoring two medical channels and routes units to the right hospital,” said Smith. “They are not directly involved with dispatch.”

Smith says to single out this captain is inappropriate when the problem appears to be more with computer system design.

"We need to look at system-wide problems and fix it,” said Smith. “And if it needs more resources, then we get more resources or we make adjustments to the software.”

As FOX 5 reported Tuesday night, Medic 27 and Medic 19 were allowed to temporarily go out of service, but told to monitor the radio.

The crew of Ambulance 15 says it was parked at a firehouse on New Jersey Avenue in Northwest D.C. and unaware they had mistakenly marked themselves out of service when dispatchers were looking for help.

However, the report says Ambulance 15 was actually parked in quarters at Engine 15 in Anacostia at the time of the call.

"I think it is up to every employee to follow the protocols and rules,” said Quander. “And that's why we have it and so the rules are if you are going out of service, you go out of service on a condition, to monitor the radio in case we need you to respond.”

Quander says all seven face punishment that could possibly end in termination.

The report recommends five remedies, which include keeping four ambulances stocked and ready to go in case an ambulance breaks down.

It was just a couple of weeks ago Quander said at a news conference the fire department should have two ambulances in reserve ready to go.


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