DC 911 Dispatcher Delayed Sending Rescue Crews to Man Trapped by Fallen Tree

The 911 dispatcher was trying to figure out the exact location of the accident, officials say

A 911 dispatcher in the District delayed sending rescue units to the scene of a man trapped in his car beneath a fallen tree because she couldn't determine the exact location of the incident, officials tell News4.

The first 911 call came in Monday at 6:05 p.m., but units were not dispatched until 6:11 p.m., according to records provided by the Office of Unified Communications.

Police and bystanders at the scene decided to band together and lift the massive tree off the car while waiting for D.C. Fire and EMS crews to arrive.

Alan Etter, a spokesperson for OUC told News4 the delay was caused by confusion between the 911 operator and the caller.

"The first caller gave us about four different locations...so it took a few minutes to realize where the situation was," Etter said.

OUC would not release the official Computer Aided Dispatch report, CAD, or the audio of the 911 call, but OUC did allow News4 to listen to the call.

In the first few seconds of the call, the witness clearly describes the scene as "Rock Creek Parkway, just after the Connecticut Avenue exit.....and before the tunnel at the zoo."

The caller also specifically says a man is trapped in a car beneath a tree.

The 911 operator repeatedly asks for clarification of the location, asking for either a street address or an intersection.

"The call taker it seems to me was trying to be very diligent trying to extract the exact location. It just took some time to get it out," Etter said.

The woman who made the 911 call told News4 the operator did not seem to have a good working knowledge of the area and insisted on getting either a street address or intersection.

D.C.'s 911 call center has come under fire over the years for similar delayed dispatches related to operators not being able to determine the exact locations based on callers descriptions.

In 2011, a man died near the intersection of Military Road and Beach Drive after a tree fell on his truck during a snowstorm. In that incident, the 911 operator told the caller that intersection did not exist. OUC officials later blamed the mix up on a "glitch" in their mapping system.

Currently, D.C. does not have the technology to pinpoint the location of 911 callers. Etter said they hope to have that capability by next year.

The driver of the car who was trapped Monday night has been upgraded to stable condition.

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