Report: Miscommunication Among Firefighters, on 911 Call Before Death Outside Firehouse

By News4 and NBCWashington staff
|  Friday, Feb 21, 2014  |  Updated 7:42 PM EDT
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Five firefighters and four 911 call center employees have been recommended for disciplinary action following the death of a man across the street from a D.C. fire station, according to a statement released Friday from the D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department.

Shomari Stone

Five firefighters and four 911 call center employees have been recommended for disciplinary action following the death of a man across the street from a D.C. fire station, according to a statement released Friday from the D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department.

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Report: Miscommunication Among Firefighters, on 911 Call Before Death Outside Firehouse

News4's Shomari Stone spoke with Medric Mills' daughter for her reaction to the DC Fire Department's report regarding her father's death.
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Five firefighters and four 911 call center employees have been recommended for disciplinary action following the death of a man across the street from a D.C. fire station, according to a statement released Friday from the D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department.

Medric Cecil Mills went into cardiac arrest in a shopping center parking lot along Rhode Island Avenue NE last month. A 911 call was placed by someone working in a nearby business while several people went across the street to the Engine House 26 fire station.

According to the District's internal investigation, all five firefighters in-house at the time were aware of the medical emergency, but none "took any action to provide assistance."

The official report goes on to detail a series of miscommunications, including the inability to rouse the firehouse's lieutenant from a bunkroom because the PA system had been turned off in that room.

The dispatcher who received the 911 call also failed to ask the caller which quadrant of the city the emergency was in and automatically assigned it to northwest Washington, instead of northeast.

The caller corrected the dispatcher when the address was read back, but the lead dispatcher and radio operators failed to see the corrected address, the report explains.

On the 911 calls, which were released Friday, the caller tells the 911 operator that they are close to a fire station. "OK, we are going to send somebody right away," the 911 operator says.

"I mean, the fire department is right across the street," the caller says.

"Yeah, we, I understand that, but we, I got to send it right away ok. Hold on a second," the operator says.

A D.C. police officer eventually flagged down an ambulance heading to another assignment, and Mills was transported to a local hospital, over 20 minutes after the initial 911 call was placed. Mills died at Washington Hospital Center.

Disciplinary actions could range from an official reprimand to dismissal, DCFEMS said.

The lieutenant who supervised the station and another firefighter have been placed on administrative leave, and the lieutenant has filed for retirement.

News4's Shomari Stone asked Deputy Mayor Paul Quander why no action was being taken against DCFEMS Chief Kenneth Ellerbe because of the incident.

"This isn't about Chief Ellerbe," Quander said. "He wasn't at the firehouse door when someone asked for help. He didn't go to the kitchen after being told about the situation. He didn't head for his bunk with a book. He didn't not respond.

"This is about character, or a lack of it," Quander said. "And those FEMS members who were apathetic or lazy will face appropriate discipline."

Mayor Vincent Gray has called the incident "an outrage.''

Medric Mills' daughter spoke with News4 Friday. She said her father would have wanted the firefighters and dispatchers to get another chance to "get it right."

Earlier this month, Mills' family called for the termination of all fire department employees involved.

"It is extremely painful to think that our dad could still be with us if he was given proper medical care. He was in clear medical distress... but when an emergency happened at their doorstep, they did nothing," Medric Mills' son, Medric Mills III, said.

The family said it's also time for the District to overturn a law that essentially protects public officials legally if they don't provide proper medical care. Following the city's investigation, a memorandum has been issued requiring firefighters to assistance those in need, whether or not they were dispatched.

Mills' death is the just the latest in a string of incidents the fire department has faced in recent months.

A woman contacted News4 in January, claiming her son died four years ago outside a fire station waiting for help, while an EMT on duty refused to treat him. The News4 I-Team learned some D.C. firehouses were understaffed during last year's shooting at the Washington Navy Yard. Last April, Ellerbe admitted only 58 of the department's 111 ambulances were in service. Since then, Ellerbe has testified that 30 new vehicles were put into service last year.

 

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