Update: ‘Human Element’ Blamed for Firefighters Going to Wrong Address

Firefighters were sent to the wrong address for a house fire Friday night, going to a Rockville address instead of where they should have gone in Wheaton, about 10 miles away.

The correct address was on Pritchard Road. Firefighters were sent to Piccard Drive.

“We have a human element and there’s always a chance for error,” said Capt. Thomas Jordan, spokesperson for the Montgomery County police. The police operate the Emergency Communications Center that dispatches fire calls.

Here’s how Pete Piringer, spokesperson for the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service, reported it:

On Monday afternoon, Montgomery County police issued the following statement:

On Friday December 6, 2019, at 10:18 p.m., the Montgomery County Emergency Communications Center (911) received a call requesting assistance for smoke in the residence at 2005 Prichard Road in Wheaton. The call-taker misunderstood the caller and entered the address as 2005 Piccard Drive in Rockville, and then continued to get further details from the caller. Montgomery County Fire and Rescue personnel were dispatched to the Piccard Drive address while the call-taker remained on the phone. After an additional verification of the address by the call-taker, the address was corrected to 2005 Prichard Road and Montgomery County Fire and Rescue personnel were dispatched to the Prichard Road address in Wheaton.

A timeline of the event is provided below:

Call received at ECC at 10:18 p.m. – Sent to Dispatch at 10:21 p.m.

MCFRS dispatched to 2005 Piccard Drive in Rockville at 10:21 p.m.

MCFRS arrived at Piccard Drive address at 10:25 p.m. – nothing found

Call-taker corrects address to 2005 Prichard Road at 10:25 p.m

MCFRS dispatched to Prichard Road address at 10:27 p.m.

MCFRS arrived at Prichard Road address at 10:31 p.m.

MCFRS personnel were able to neutralize a fire that had started on the 2nd floor of the residence and all residents were safely removed from the home and provided medical treatment for non-life threatening injuries. During the call, the call-taker stayed on the phone with the caller for close to 10 minutes, obtaining additional information and providing instructions for the caller to move to a safer location.

This incident is still under review and appropriate actions will be taken to mitigate the chances of such an error occurring in the future. We continue to work with our MCFRS partners to provide expeditious responses to incidents within Montgomery County.

Editor’s note: This story was updated to include the Monday afternoon police statement.

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