D.C. Fire Stations Near Navy Yard Understaffed in Shooting

By Scott MacFarlane
|  Saturday, Sep 21, 2013  |  Updated 8:10 AM EDT
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News4 I-Team: DC Firehouses Understaffed Near Navy Yard

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News4 I-Team: DC Firehouses Understaffed Near Navy Yard

The News4 I-Team has learned the D.C. firehouses closest to the Navy Yard were understaffed the morning of the mass shooting, including operating without paramedics. There's no indication this impacted the city's response to the Navy Yard shooting, but as Scott MacFarlane reports, the shortage of paramedics is just the latest in a series of problems in the District's firehouses.
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News4 I-Team has learned some D.C. firehouses were understaffed during Monday morning's shooting at the Navy Yard.

Twelve people were killed and eight others injured when 34-year-old Aaron Alexis opened fire inside Building 197 in Southeast D.C. around 8:30 a.m. Alexis was later shot and killed by police.

The response time of local fire and emergency management services has been called into question, especially following a recent News4 I-Team report uncovering 181 vacancies at D.C. Fire and EMS, including paramedics.

Fire officials tell News4's I-Team nine D.C. ambulanceswere operating without paramedics Monday.

Ambulance units at Company 7 and Company 8, the closest stations to the Navy Yard, were operating in a "downgraded" status -- meaning they did not have a paramedic on board who could offer advanced life-saving services like intubating patients, administering drugs and using defibrillators.

D.C. Fire and EMS received 500 calls for emergency assistance Monday morning -- some handled by neighboring departments. According to Ed Smith, head of D.C.'s fire union, all of the District's resources were put into Monday's shooting.

"We still have the rest of the city that could potentially have an emergency... what's left to respond to other emergencies?" Smith said. 

A D.C. Fire spokesperson told News4, "the downgrades had no impact on the department's ability to respond or transport patients from the Navy Yard. Downgrades are typically a result of members not reporting for duty or not making themselves available due to an unscheduled absence by a colleague."

D.C. Fire Chief Kenneth Ellerbe says the agency has hired 10 new paramedics in recent weeks -- but News4 I-Team has learned the department loses anywhere between 15 and 20 paramedics each year. 

The department plans to conduct a post-shooting review to determine if its response could have been improved. 

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