On Friday, April 22, 2022 at 3:20 in the afternoon, the Office of Unified Communications received 299 calls within minutes from teachers, students, parents, and those passing by reporting a shooting incident at the Edmund Burke School, located at 4101 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington DC. In most of the calls, additional rapid gunfire could be heard by the call takers. Additionally, the center was receiving an unprecedented number of texts from teachers and students within the school who were advising of their location, as they were sheltering in place. Due to the extremely nice weather and the time of day, hundreds of people were also outside of the school and along the Connecticut Avenue corridor. It was quickly determined an unknown subject was shooting into the school and onto the street from a nearby high-rise apartment complex. Additionally, it was quickly determined that this person was not showing signs of stopping and that the city had an active shooter situation. Due to this, the center continued to see an uptick of calls from victims, witnesses, and residents in the area. In the next five hours while law enforcement agencies identified, searched for, and ultimately located the suspect; the Office of Unified Communications call takers took nearly 1,000 emergency calls for service.
While we train for this type of event, we hope it never happens. On this day, the team leaned back into their active shooter training and performed exceptionally taking calls, coordinating responses, making notification, and helping to create situational awareness for officers and commanders of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) and the allied federal and private law enforcements agencies and members and command staff of the DC Fire and EMS Department (DCFEMS) on scene—literally hundreds of responders. Several of the callers were teachers and students alerting us of their location, as they were sheltering in place. This information was collected and passed on to responders as they cleared the area. Instructions for keeping callers safe were also being given.
The primary dispatcher working the 2nd police district dispatch channel, simultaneously to the influx of calls, was alerted by an officer in the area to the rapid sound of gunfire. The dispatcher immediately took incident command until the arrival of an on scene MPD Commander and stayed in constant contact with the officer initially on scene, as they approached the school area. As other officers arrived nearby, the dispatcher relayed pertinent information about setting up a perimeter, ensuring officer safety and alerting officers to updated information as it was rapidly coming in. Five additional team members who were not actively working channels, immediately jumped onto the 2nd District channels, the Special Operations Channel, the Citywide Channel and tactical channels to support this rapidly unfolding intense incident. The supervisors were working diligently alongside the call takers and dispatchers while also making proper notifications to commanders of our partner public safety agencies. The dispatchers for the DCFEMS units were working closely with the call takers, police dispatchers, and supervisors to understand where victims were, where police officers were bringing victims to meet units for care, and worked with the DCFEMS Fire Liaison Officers in the center for mass casualty operations.
The manner in which our employees showed up for this unprecedented incident. The way the OUC call takers, MPD dispatchers, FEMS dispatchers, and supervisors pulled together as a team to ensure all pertinent information was relayed in a timely manner to first responders played a large role in helping to minimize injuries and ensure all responders went home after their tours of duty.