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D.C. 911 call taker put on leave after flagging wrong address for call

A 2016 view of the D.C. call center where dispatchers work. (Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post)
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A D.C. 911 operator has been put on leave after sending help to the wrong address on Monday, delaying an emergency response to a call in which a woman was found dead, according to District officials.

The D.C. fire department and Office of Unified Communications, which runs the District’s 911 center, are investigating.

Christopher Geldart, the deputy mayor for public safety and justice, said the woman in Southeast Washington had suffered from multiple health problems and was pronounced dead at the residence.

“We do not believe the delay contributed to her death,” he said.

Efforts on Wednesday to reach relatives for the 56-year-old woman were not successful.

Kelly Brown, the chief of staff for the Office of Unified Communications, said in a statement that the employee who took the emergency call sent the dispatcher an address number of 122 in Southeast along the Capitol Riverfront.

Brown said the call should have been dispatched to an address number of 1222 on the same street, nearly one mile away in the Potomac Gardens area.

A teenager was drowning. 911 sent help to the wrong place.

The error was first brought to public attention by Dave Statter, a retired WUSA reporter who closely tracks emergency dispatches and has uncovered failings in sending emergency responders to correct locations in the District.

Brown’s statement says the 911 center received a call for a person who was “not conscious or breathing and unable to be roused.”

“A preliminary investigation shows that our call taker entered the numerals of the address incorrectly and sent it to be dispatched,” the statement says.

Brown’s statement did not provide dispatch times, and she did not respond to a request for that information.

Statter, citing time-stamped dispatched radio traffic from OpenMHz.com, said the initial call to the wrong address came at 10:05 a.m. The accurate address was learned at 10:13 a.m. and was re-dispatched at 10:16 a.m.

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