Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Julio Martinez

Walter Reed erroneous "active shooter:" domino effect of one person's mistake

December 11, 2018 - 10:52 am

The report of an "active shooter" at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland - that wasn't true - was the result of a series of multiple miscommunications that began with one person's mistake.

The lockdown of the medical campus, which cares for post-combat service members amongst others, lasted nearly an hour and a half on Nov. 27. 

A full accounting of the event is still not available, but according to a report by The Washington Post, the event started when one person accidentally sent out an active shooter alert and did not know how to rescind the alert.  He waited over an hour to report the mistake, and in the meantime, a domino effect took place: the erroneous alert created text, email and phone messages sent to every employee on the campus, alerting them to take cover.  Employees told Connecting Vets that they were never informed that the alerts were faulty, thus causing distress.


“It was human error,” Jeremy Brooks, a spokesman for Naval Support Activity Bethesda, told The Washington Post.  Brooks would not identify the person responsible for the mistake, citing an ongoing investigation.

The alert not only put employees and patients in lockdown mode, but summoned local authorities and police, who shut down the major artery in front of Walter Reed during the afternoon rush hour.   

Walter Reed National Military Medical Center is the nation's largest military medical facility.   Active-duty service members and their family members are cared for there, but mostly it is known at the facility that treats wounded warriors and provides care to the president and members of Congress. 

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