Reprinted with Permission
A Prince George's County, Maryland ambulance crew was lost for 48-minutes Tuesday night unable to get to a senior citizen's apartment building to help an injured woman.
Firefighters on the scene tried unsuccessfully to guide the ambulance from Riverdale VFD to the scene. Eventually a second ambulance had to be sent to transport the patient.
While everyone seemed to keep their cool, there was a great deal of frustration evident on the Prince George's County Fire/EMS Department radio system Tuesday night. A fire engine crew was with an injured elderly woman at an apartment complex and couldn't get an ambulance to come to the scene.
A PGFD spokesman and the chief of the Riverdale Volunteer Fire Department (Station 807) confirm that despite efforts of the firefighters to guide the lost Riverdale crew, a second ambulance had to be sent, arriving 48-minutes after the initial dispatch. Ambulance 807 never got to the scene.
PGFD Chief Spokesman Mark Brady tells STATter911.com, "The lack of a timely response and arrival is totally unacceptable." Brady believes the delay had no adverse impact on the patient's condition. The elderly woman was treated by the engine crew during the wait for an ambulance.
Riverdale VFD Chief Charles Ryan III wrote in an email to STATter911.com there were some mitigating circumstances, but that "Ultimately, there is no acceptable excuse". Chief Ryan says he has been "deeply involved in the investigation" and has counseled the individuals and clarified "what steps they need to take to ensure this doesn't happen in the future"
According to Mark Brady and Chief Ryan, the call was dispatched at 8:42 PM for an injured woman at 4915 Eastern Avenue. The building is a large, four-story senior citizen's complex known as Avondale Park.
Engine 855 from Bunker Hill and Riverdale's Ambulance 807 were dispatched. Brady says that "Engine 855 arrived, made patient contact and initiated BLS care for a small laceration to the face of one of our senior citizens at 8:47 PM."
Here is Brady's written account of what happened next:
The crew on-board Ambulance 807 was not familiar with the location or the route to the incident location and was provided directions over the radio to the scene from Engine 855. After 30 minutes since the 911 call was placed, despite receiving directions, Ambulance 807 was still not on location (9:22 PM).
The next closest BLS ambulance, Ambulance 801, Hyattsville, was dispatched on the call and arrived at 9:30 PM. Ambulance 801 transported the patient to a local hospital at 9:43 PM.
Those who monitored the conversations between Engine 855 and Ambulance 807 on PGFD's Channel 4 heard the engine crew, on multiple occasions, calmly providing directions. Brady says the ambulance crew kept giving an updated ETA.
The apartment is accessed through the same entrance and property as St. Ann's Infant and Maternity Home at 4901 Eastern Avenue. St. Ann's has long been a frequent user of the ambulance service in Prince George's County and is well known to ambulance crews in the area. Residents at 4915 Eastern Avenue also say that fire trucks and ambulances frequently respond to emergencies at their building. The crew from Engine 855 used St. Ann's as a landmark to help guide the responding ambulance.
Eastern Avenue is the Prince George's County border with the District of Columbia along the city's Northeast quadrant. Eastern Avenue at that point is split, with the road dead ending between the 5000 block and the 4900 block at one end of the large property owned by the Archdiocese of Washington. The 4900 block picks up as Gallatin Street, NE ends. Residents tell us visitors often have difficulty finding the building.
In trying to follow the directions provided by the firefighters on the scene, the crew from Ambulance 807 found itself at one point in DC along South Dakota Avenue after missing the turns provided by the engine crew.
Ambulance 807 was canceled and put back in service at 9:30 PM when Ambulance 801 arrived at the apartment building. The Hyattsville fire station is about three-miles from the Eastern Avenue location. That is about a mile closer to the scene than Riverdale's station. Ambulance 801 was on another call when the Eastern Avenue emergency was dispatched. Ambulance 801 had returned to service from the previous call at 9:01 PM and was in quarters when it was dispatched to Eastern Avenue.
Station 807 is considered the fourth due company to 4915 Eastern Avenue.
Riverdale's Chief Ryan indicated that the GPS unit inside the ambulance provided the wrong location. STATter911.com found a similar problem using a GPS unit. It took us to Carson Circle off of Queens Chapel Road, about a half mile from 4915 Eastern Avenue.
Besides the GPS issue, Chief Ryan wrote that the map pages of this area Station 855 provides to neighboring companies are "unacceptable". In his email Chief Ryan attached one page from Station 855's map book. It gives a general overview of the area, has "4915" labeled above the words "Gallatin Street NE" and shows access from Eastern Avenue and Gallatin Street. It also points to a more detailed map on Page 8 of the book. It is unclear if the crew from Ambulance 807 had Page 8 in their book (that map was not provided by Chief Ryan). A look at a similar map book at Station 855 on Thursday showed Page 8 providing a much more detailed map of the complex.
Chief Ryan also said there were incorrect cross streets on the dispatch printout from the CAD.
Mark Brady says the entire incident, and not just the actions of the crew on Ambulance 807, is being reviewed by PGFD officials.
Like Brady, Chief Ryan pointed out "the delay did not have a negative impact on the patient's outcome."
Chief Ryan did take issue with Mark Brady. In his statement to STATter911.com Chief Ryan wrote, "Mr. Brady, before offering any response should have had the decency and professional courtesy to contact me before releasing any response as I have been deeply involved in the investigation, counseling and ultimate conclusion to this incident since its occurrence ...".