The Concerned Citizen

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Where are the Checks & Balances?

Three incidents on Metro in the last 60 days led to the discovery that the transit agency was using a bad number to reach D.C. emergency dispatchers.

On the evening of the Washington Nationals’ World Series victory parade, Dan Stessel of Metro advised that a manager in Metro’s Rail Operations Control Center called DC 911 to report a fire at the Chinatown station, but was placed on hold which created a delay in dispatching Fire and EMS. During this period, Metro managers were also placed on hold when a rider was trapped in an elevator and again when another passenger was ill.

Metro looked at these delays and raised its concerns with the Office of Unified Communications or OUC, which oversees D.C. 911. The OUC director Karima Holmes testified at a City Council inquiry that Metro was using a number that routed calls to a low-priority queue where they’re placed on hold if the dispatch center is busy.

This is unacceptable! In light of the discovery, the OUC has subsequently provided Metro’s operations center with the same seven-digit emergency number used by neighboring 911 centers in MD and VA. Metro has verified that it now has the correct number to reach emergency responders in DC and every other jurisdiction it serves.

Comment: This is the Nation’s Capital, and the Office of Unified Communications (OUC) is the hub of emergency services for the citizens and visitors of the District of Columbia. Is this the best we can do, where are the checks and balances? There should be someone at the OUC charged with creating and maintaining a revolving schedule of information and service updates that gets distributed on a regular basis to all neighboring emergency services agencies (Police-Fire-EMS) to also include the areas Water and Power companies.

Filed under: Commentary

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