9-1-1 Delays Cause Worry in DC

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Credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images

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WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — Just weeks after the District of Columbia’s fire chief had to apologize for failures that led to slow ambulance response times, Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Paul Quander is calling recent delays in 9-1-1 calls being answered “unacceptable” and “disturbing.”

On Saturday, Quander says three callers were put on hold for much longer than usual. The vast majority of 9-1-1 calls that come into the Unified Communications Center get answered within five seconds, but at least one of those three had to wait more than a full minute in order to report a burglary at her home.

Quander says there was a spike in calls at the time, and three of the twelve call-takers on duty were on break or using the restroom. There were also a higher number of calls throughout the day Saturday, about 400 more than the average 3,800, in fact. The combination of bad timing and high call volume led to the delays.

So is it time to police bathroom breaks? Quander doesn’t want to micromanage, but “a supervisor has the discretion to say ‘Well, if you can wait 5 minutes, then you can go,’” he said.

Quander says supervisors may have to crack down, but he expects things will improve when 12-hour shifts begin next month. Unions, however, are warning that fatigue and mistakes will come hand-in-hand with the longer hours.

Related: 170,000 Sign Petition to Overturn Bill for Ambulance After Man Dies Waiting

D.C. Fire Chief Apologizes For Ambulance Failures

WNEW’s Matt DelSignore contributed to this report. Follow him and WNEW on Twitter.

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