DCFD: Incompetence Writ Large

Technology as Cover-up


The Washington Post reports that the city released a scathing review this week on the choking death of  a 13-month old infant after the closest unit failed to respond.

Thanks to the apparently faulty rollout of a dime-store solution to GPS tracking, the communications center had inaccurate information regarding who was available and closest.

Engine and Medic 31 were dispatched to a call right around the corner from Engine 20.

Once again, the techno-glitch provides a perfect opportunity to divert attention away from the real issue: a substantial portion of DCFD members are guilty of failing to protect the people who live and work here.

The Post is right, it’s Medric Mills all over again.

In that case, communications also got the quadrant wrong, dispatching the wrong companies to an address miles away.

But, Mills collapsed right across the street from Engine 26/Truck 15, what would be a fortuitous circumstance in most places.

Not in DC.

Members not only failed to respond after repeated citizen requests, they refused to.

A perfectly reasonable conclusion:  They don’t give a shit.

Taking a Hard Pass

No one really knows how many units “take a soft pass” on responding to an EMS call because they are flying under the radar.

They hear it, they’re close enough to make a difference but they pass.

Effective GPS tracking would help to eliminate that by taking the discretion away from officers who can pick and choose which calls they will respond to.

The March incident was a “hard pass.”

Engine 20 was apparently dispatched after all, then cancelled and failed to take in the incident even when they knew they were closer.

The computer told them not to.

From the Post, “the report also says the lieutenant failed to correct dispatch after his units were dispatched then canceled, even though he could have reached the child faster. Questioned later, the lieutenant told investigators that after someone complained, he replied, “I don’t put the calls out.”

It’s a complete and total abrogation of ethical and moral leadership.

A Culture in Decay

People revere firefighters in part because they will figure it out,  see through the BS, get it done.

Not in DC where any excuse is a good one.

Edward C. Smith, president of the firefighters union, said, “This starts and stops with the crappy rollout of this technology…”

Assuming he knows that Engine 20 took a pass, his comment is irresponsible.

It’s even more amazing as Smith works on a rescue company where operational tasks are often difficult.

Smith’s comment is tantamount to giving up on forcible entry since they didn’t present you with the key.

(And, one is given to wondering if Kentland E-331 would have taken a pass, too.)

Broken technology is much easier to repair than broken culture.

Our culture is inextricably linked to who we are, our values, our commitment, our sense of duty.

In the DCFD the culture is proven to be both diseased and destructive.

But, as always, there are bright spots, in this case, two.

The DCFD member or members who spoke up and the Post for shining the light.

Good on ya, mates.





  • Mike says:

    Well said! Our old job has changed and so has the type of person doing it.

  • Sid Polish says:

    E26 and Truck 15. not 17.

  • Greenshield says:

    You have absolutely no idea to which you are speaking. Who the fuck are you to denigrate a great membership whom , a few moths ago , buried one of their own. He was serving the very people “we don’t care about”. You mention the AVL. Use your coward ass Fairfax , yard breathing brain to understand that people are commonly, ( since avl instituted) running calls in each other’s local alarms. This is even more common now with the Paramedic engines running all over the city and returning through other local alarms. It is not uncommon to be cancelled on runs and the run to be given to another. WE DO NOT KNOW WHERE ANYONE IS RESPONDING FROM ANYMORE DUE TO THE AVL. There us no way the officer could have known , after being cancelled, that he was closer than the unit communications chose.

  • Chris Hebert says:

    Is it a “hard pass” or a “soft pass” for a blogger to steal photos to use in their blog without properly crediting the photographer? My guess is its a “hard pass”

    Now if my judgement was as clouded as yours, I would assume all bloggers steal images. But everyone knows generalizing and stereotyping an entire segment of a specific organization is silly. In-fact, it could be argued that someone with this sort of thinking loses all credibility in their written thoughts when generalizations and obvious personal disdain are clearly evident.

    I am not sure I need to argue the lack of credibility within the words written above. An agenda was established over a year ago and you will continue your attempt at driving your uninformed point forward… no matter how pathetically obvious it is.

    • Eric Lamar says:



      Used without attribution?


      Removed when pointed out?


      That’s the ability to admit a shortcoming, and to correct it, by the way.

  • Sid Polish says:

    You state Engine 20 was dispatched on the call? Did you even read the report? Your lack of credibility is ruined by the simple fact that you fail to post the correct information.

    When you want to have an intelligent conversation about this let me know. I’d be glad to inform you of your errors and ommissions.

    • Eric Lamar says:

      The Post:

      “But the report also says the lieutenant failed to correct dispatch after his units were dispatched then canceled, even though he could have reached the child faster. ”

      That’s reasonably clear to me.

    • Sid Polish says:

      Did you read the entire report Eric? Or are you basing your tirade strictly on what the news is reporting?

      Engine 20 and its Lieutenant were never dispatched. NEVER. Before you decide to post such inflammatory and incorrect information please read the entire report. You are putting out information that is NOT TRUE and because of your inaccuracies, and those being portrayed in the 14 seconds each news station allows L-36 and its members to speak the truth, you are putting the safety of all of us in DCFEMS at risk.

      You could be doing so much to help our cause but you have some sort of personal agenda against us and have decided that you don’t want to read the report but only mouth off based on what someone else tells you.

      • Eric Lamar says:

        Good morning, Sid.

        I got the report and read it and fessed up to my error.

        I have been a DC resident for 40 years and my agenda is high quality fire and rescue service.

        I do have a bias and I will admit it here: I have also been an IAFF member for 40 years and I think it’s totally hypocritical for Local 36 members to volunteer in places where there should be career firefighters and paramedics.

        I am aware of the bias and try to keep it contained.

        BTW, the report does not exonerate DCFD, it is just another sad and sorry tale.


  • dave statter says:

    Eric, there is a lot to look at in the lieutenant’s statements that make you question his abilities. That said, if every time an officer hears a unit on an EMS call in their first due they call communications or put themselves on the call you will have chaos. The pattern you are missing, that everyone misses, is OUC. They are responsible for more negative impact on the health and well being of people in DC than this lieutenant. I think you’ve called this way wrong my friend.

  • dave statter says:

    Also Eric, Local 36 souded the alarm on the tablets wel before thid child died. They warned of disaster and no one listened. During the Ellerbe administration they also warned of impending fleet problems and paramedic shortages. Again, no one listened. That is more leadership on crucial issues than those in charge showed.

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