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Washington, DC's 911 dispatch system is malfunctioning almost every day

Washington, DC's 911 dispatch system is malfunctioning almost every day


Officials are scrambling to fix it after response times have plummeted

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Washington, DC officials were hoping to modernize the city's emergency dispatch service when they launched a new system last fall, but a new report out this week suggests anything but. Response times have dropped, technical support tickets have shot up, and the mayor has started emergency work to fix the system.

Technical support calls went up 800 percent after the system was introduced

The Washington Post highlights some of the problems. Tablets placed in firetrucks and ambulances are losing their 4G connections while responding to calls, leading to difficulty tracking callers. Dispatchers, meanwhile, are deploying emergency vehicles from centers that aren't the closest to the sources of the calls. Last week, a child choked to death when responders were sent from a center about a mile away, rather than one a few blocks from the call. An investigation by the mayor's office found responders nearest to the call weren't logged in to the system.

The hard figures on the system are equally dismal, the Post reports. A month after the system launched in October, technical support calls were up 800 percent, although that number has since fallen to a relatively small 200 percent increase. In the past four months, 1,000 "incident tickets" have been sent to the service's IT help desk, while response times for February were up to nearly eight minutes, compared with 1.5 minutes a year earlier.

Washington, DC's system is hardly the first to have problems like this — some dispatchers have stories of calls being routed to ambulances across rivers from the caller — but it's rare when problems in one city spike so much at once. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser says her office has already alleviated some of the problems and wants to fix the rest within a week.