WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- You shouldn't have to worry when you call 911 in the District that there might not be an ambulance available.
So, are we safe, and are we covered?
DC Councilmember and Mayoral hopeful Tommy Wells is expressing some "grave concerns" that we are not.
He says that is unacceptable. Wells says he visited the 911 call center in DC at 10:30 a.m. Monday, and was told there were only 3 ambulances available for the entire District.
"They were all up in Northwest, so that told me that if any event was going to happen needing an ambulance transport, say in Southeast, that it would take a long time," said Wells.
Ambulances in the District have been making news for the wrong reasons.
On May 29th, one ambulance shut down mid-trip, taking a suspect DC Police shot after a carjacking. In March, an injured DC police officer laid on a Southeast street and waited close to 20 minutes for an ambulance. When there are none available, a Prince George's County ambulance pitches in.
WUSA9 contacted DC Fire Chief Ken Ellerbe and DC Mayor Vincent Gray.
Gray's spokesperson Pedro Ribeiro spoke to us regarding Wells' press release. He said, "To say that there are only 3 medical units available, he's taking the entire the number completely out of context."
Here's Wells' math: The District has 39 ambulances. At the time, 31 were on a response call or at the hospital. 5 were unavailable for various reasons, leaving the 3 in Northwest.
Ribeiro backs those numbers, but adds, "The fact of the matter is in the District of Columbia, we have far more resources available, there are 6 EMS supervisors who are able to respond as well and we have 21 paramedic engine companies that are also available to respond in case of medical emergencies."
WUSA9 took those numbers back to Wells' office.
They agreed those 27 additional resources are also available, but pointed out that they cannot transport.
WUSA9 went back to Ribeiro and he said, on occasion, they have transported patients.
Ribeiro says the District wants to redeploy resources so they have more workers during peak call times when the city's population swells. We reached out to Ed Smith, head of the firefighters union who agrees the system needs help, but not that, "We already have a fragile system and any ideas to redeploy ambulances could absolutely topple the system."
Late in the evening, Tim Wilson, DC Fire and EMS Spokesperson, who said he took a close look, and there were actually 5 ambulances available for calls at 10:30 Monday morning, not 3.
In any event, getting three different answers to the same question cannot leave District residents confident that their leaders have a handle on whether they are adequately prepared to respond to the city's emergency calls.
Republished with permission of WUSA9.com