Commanders on scene of two major fires in the District of Columbia are not too pleased their calls for additional alarms did not yield results, and the firefighter’s union wants answers.

FOX 5 News reports in one case, it took 10 minutes for the Office of Unified Communications (OUC) to dispatch additional support staff.

In June, firefighters were battling an apartment building blaze in Northwest D.C. for more than two hours when the on-scene commander requested for a third alarm.

But three minutes later when the commander didn’t hear the call go out over the radio, the dispatcher says, ““Okay sir. We’re, umm, getting it now.”

FOX 5 News reports six minutes after the commander first asked for additional manpower, it’s finally dispatched. It is a delay the firefighters’ union said is unacceptable.

A week later, an on-scene commander gets a similar response while fighting a major fire on U Street. However, this time, the dispatcher’s response is a bit more revealing.

“We are having computer problems. We are not able to get our second alarm units out there. It is not coming up on the board.”

The firefighters’ union tells FOX News 5 as the fire spread, 10 minutes went by before the units were even dispatched.

“It’s been an issue that this union has brought to both the fire department and OUC on several occasions and we seem to still be having significant problems with it,” Dabney Hudson, president of the District of Columbia Firefighters Association tells FOX News 5. “Obviously this incident the other night highlights it. It is one of the only times we have actually had somebody admit that they have had an issue, a technical issue, that caused a delay in providing service.”

Hudson tells FOX News 5 when a commander orders a second or a third alarm, it should be sounded almost immediately.

“It’s a push of a button in a CAD (computer-aided dispatch), which should be the push of a button to put the assignment together and then subsequently dispatch it,” he said. “I would think 30 to 45 seconds from the time it was asked for to the time it was dispatched would be within industry standards.”

The OUC released a statement to FOX 5 News saying the matter is under investigation, and that the office committed to serving the community.

The OUC statement reads:

“The Office of Unified Communications continues to investigate two recent incidents. The first involves a multi-alarm fire on Peabody Street, NW on June 24th. During this event, when the incident commander requested additional resources, the system seemed to “freeze”, which led to a delay in deploying the resources. We are working with our system vendor and with our partners in the Fire & EMS Department to determine the cause of the problem, gain a full understanding of what happened, and develop solutions to prevent it from happening in the future. We have been engaged in testing and development aimed at solving this issue, which has not reoccurred since that time.

“In addition, we are investigating a multi-alarm fire which occurred on U St., NW just after midnight on July 1st. In this case, we believe a mistake made by one of our operators led to a delay in dispatching a requested 2nd alarm on the incident. The circumstances of this incident remain under investigation.

“The Office of Unified Communications is committed to serving those in need of emergency services in our community quickly and efficiently. OUC continues to make improvements in technology and training in order to keep that commitment.”

 

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