Report: 3 Ambulances Improperly Out of Service When D.C. Police Officer Was Struck

An ambulance and two medic units were within four miles of a seriously injured D.C. police officer March 5 but failed respond to the scene, according to a disturbing new report.

If the seven D.C. Fire and EMS employees in the report had been following procedure, the officer would not have needed an ambulance sent from Prince George's County, said Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Paul Quander, who released the report Thursday afternoon.

As fellow officers frantically shouted for an ambulance the evening of March 5, a paramedic with a fire engine tended to the police officer who had been run over by a car and had massive, crushing injuries to his lower body. Almost 20 minutes later, an ambulance from Prince George's County arrived.

That night 39 ambulances were responding to calls, six were out of service for repairs and three were labeled "improperly out of service," according to Quander’s report.

“You can’t let the number go down to 0,” Quander said.

Ambulance 15 was in its fire station on 14th Street SE -- four miles from the crash scene -- when one of the  crew claimed he closed the lip on the computer, not realizing he'd logged off the automated dispatching system for almost an hour, according to the report.

"You can't log off just by closing the top of your power book," Quander said. “You actually have to push a button.”

The crew of Medic 19 was on unspecified "relief status" at the fire station on Pennsylvania Avenue SE -- three miles from the accident scene, the report said.

The two-person crew of Medic 27 was at the fire station on Minnesota Avenue NE just one-and-a-half miles from the crash scene because their defibrillator batteries were low.

The report also faults the three crews for failing to monitor citywide calls for service -- known as Channel 1.

“When you’re in quarters, when you’re in the fire station, there is a loudspeaker that broadcasts every run,” Quander said.

A spokesman for the union representing paramedics said that allegation is not true.

A spokesman for the union representing firefighters said the investigation was not properly conducted.

“The members submitted written reports and were never interviewed about the incident,” Ed Smith said.

The deputy mayor reserved his strongest criticism for the emergency liasion officer -- a captain charged with monitoring delays.

“No management responsibilities were actually used in this instance, and I think it caused a gap in the service that we’re supposed to deliver,” Quander said.

Seven employees are being disciplined for failing to follow protocols, the Associated Press reported.

The report said safeguards have been implemented to prevent similar incidents.

“Any time the number of available ambulances hits five, then a number of members of the management team and others are notified,” Quander said. “The chief gets a phone call no matter what time it is. It could be two o’clock in the morning, the chief is going to wake up.”

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