Walter Reed needs to learn from the mistakes made by Hawaii

Matt Saintsing
November 27, 2018 - 9:30 pm

Just after 8 a.m. on a sleepy Sunday morning last January, Hawaiians were alerted to a North Korean ballistic missile inbound to the archipelago. The message, which caused widespread panic, ended up being a false alarm. It was sent by accident. Thankfully it prompted a national conversation and led to real reforms of the state's emergency management agency. 

The thought process at the time was that never again would citizens be mistakenly passed such a frightening message.   

But that was before Tuesday when an alert  "inadvertently" went out to employees and patients at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center near Washington, D.C.

The alert, which some reportedly received via text message or across their computer screens, warned of an active shooter. It advised everyone to "go to the nearest vehicle, structure or building that provides a measure of protection and lockdown." Heeding that advice many, including Maryland Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger, sought shelter. 

News started to trickle out that maybe this was actually a drill. The US Navy even tweeting it "Was ad hoc drill by tenant command."

According to local authorities, it is common for a large military installation to take part in such drills, but that they are usually kept in the loop. That didn't happen Tuesday. 

Law enforcement from the surrounding area in addition to on base authorities responded as if the attack was real, clearing buildings looking for casualties and a shooter.

Employees say they too were kept out of the loop. One employee telling Connecting Vets that, "every other time we've had a drill we've gotten notification for the reason of patients with PTSD, TBI etcetera. This had no drill mentioned anywhere and usually, they give us a few days heads up."

As the minutes passed, it soon became apparent things were not adding up.  It was until roughly two hours later that NSA Bethesda issued a statement. 


The US Navy also jumped in, correcting their earlier tweet, that the incident was part of a drill. According to officials,  a tenant command sent out the notice without containing the words "EXERCISE" or "DRILL."

An investigation no doubt will begin in the coming days to figure out just how this could happen (again) and how it could take more than an hour and a half to tell terrified service members, some of whom are recovering from injuries or could be suffering from Post Traumatic Stress that the ordeal was a planned drill gone awry. 

Either Naval Support Activity thought an active shooter was firing during the drill, or the agency was never told in the first place. Both scenarios are equally possible and terrifying. 

Hawaii did learn from the insanely colossal mistake and fired those responsible. We'll find out in the coming days and weeks if Walter Reed or the Navy will follow suit.