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Follow-up audit of DC's 911 system shows transparency still lacking: 7News I-Team

D.C.'s Office of Unified Communications. (7News){p}{/p}
D.C.'s Office of Unified Communications. (7News)

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The Office of the DC Auditor released another update Thursday to their scathing investigation of the District's 9-1-1 system, first released in October of 2021.

And this time, it included audio from a 9-1-1 call that the auditor says shows the agency has not been honest with the public.

The caller explains that her roommate was getting up and fell to the ground.

“I cannot lift him. He's like dead weight,” she said.

RELATED | Follow-up audit of DC's troubled 911 system shows very little change: 7News I-Team

She explains that he’s on the floor and that she cannot pick him up.

“He’s conscious?” asks the 9-1-1 operator.

The caller replies, ”Yeah, he is. I keep calling his name but now he's not answering me."

The 9-1-1 dispatcher classified what should have been an emergency as a low-level "lift assist," according to the DC Auditor.

It took 20 minutes for first responders to arrive. At that point, the man was in cardiac arrest and died.

DC Auditor Kathy Patterson said releasing that phone call is needed for the public to understand what’s happening at the Office of Unified Communications.

“I think it's a really critical part of seeing an agency improve its operations to know the extent to which that agency is being completely candid,” said Patterson. “And that has not been the case with the Office of Unified Communications."

Patterson said the agency is still not being truthful with the public, pointing to a statement posted on OUC’s website, which states that the "call was classified correctly as a "lift assist." leaving out any mention of the caller stating that the man was no longer responding to her.

Read the full statement below:

Office of Unified Communications

Final Statement

October 10, 2022 – 1300 Block of Massachusetts Avenue, NW

The Office of Unified Communications (OUC) is aware of the inaccurate social media report about this incident. This call was classified correctly as a "lift assist". The caller reported to the OUC call taker, "My roommate is on the floor, and I have been trying to get someone to check him out, but he didn't want it and now he's on the floor and I cannot pick him up off of the floor". The OUC call taker then asked if the patient was conscious and the caller replied, "Yeah, he is". The OUC call taker then asked the caller if they needed help getting the patient off the floor or if the patient needed to be transported to the hospital. The caller replied that they were not sure that the patient would be willing to go to the hospital. The caller inquired about whether someone could come and help get the patient off the floor. The OUC call taker stated that they would have the fire department dispatched to assist. The OUC call taker then asked if the patient had any obvious injuries. The caller replied, "No. I don't see anything. He was in the chair, and I was trying to help him to the sofa, and he just slid down. That's where he is, on the floor by the chair".

“If an agency is sufficiently dishonest to put inaccurate information on their website, it really calls into question the success they're having in addressing recommendations,” said Patterson.

This is just one of the multiple incidents cited in the latest follow-up audit of D.C.'s long-troubled 9-1-1 call center, along with dozens of other serious problems that Patterson’s investigative team identified a year and a half ago -- many of which are still unresolved.

READ MORE | DC 911 call center delays sending help, leading to another death: Public safety advocate

And while Patterson gives credit to the agency for following some recommendations -- like hiring four new staff -- she said the misinformation undercuts the claims of progress.

“I think this frankly is a leadership issue,” said Patterson. “It goes up a chain of command. This is something the leadership of this administration needs to take seriously."

The new report also reviewed two separate incidents involving the deaths of two infants last summer and the agency's unwillingness to share details with the public.

Patterson said the agency was not transparent about the deaths of the babies or what went wrong.

SEE ALSO | DC 911 dispatcher misclassified baby in hot car call, sources tell 7News

Patterson’s report found that the call taker logged in the wrong address in one of the deaths and did not change it.

The agency never acknowledged the mistake in its incident report.

“It’s not the crime, it's the cover up,” said Patterson. “That's a call that should have been investigated. There should have been training, there should have been accountability."

Patterson said her office will continue to evaluate the OUC but ultimately, it's up to the city council to take ownership of this longstanding issue.

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You can read the statement from OUC responding to the DC Auditor's report, here.

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