I’m very concerned by the Mayor’s decision to reappoint Karima Holmes as Director of the Office of Unified Communications (OUC), the body that handles the city’s 911 and 311 calls.
Last year, the Office of the District of Columbia Auditor found that, under her leadership, the OUC’s 911 operations—for most months in 2019 and 2020—failed to meet national standards when it came to answering priority calls for fire and emergency medical services in a timely manner. Additionally, OUC call-takers did not use new technologies to locate callers and confirm the location of reported events.
This failure proved deadly in November 2020, when a woman died of cardiac arrest because OUC dispatchers sent a crew to the wrong address. It took five months for OUC to issue an apology to her family. Finally, the report noted that OUC supervisors participated in and facilitated inappropriate office behaviors such as bullying, which created a toxic work environment.
This is unacceptable and dangerous. Our 911 system is there to meet the critical needs of our residents. People in dire situations can’t wait for a response. We are paying attention and will critically review this reappointment.