Active Shooter Drill Gone Wrong Causes Panic at Maryland Hospital

An improper mass alert caused an active shooter scare at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, a hospital for recovering veterans.

Active Shooter Drill Gone Wrong Causes Panic at Maryland Hospital

Police responded and cleared the building, finding no indication of an active shooter.

Authorities have confirmed that Tuesday’s active shooter scare at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., was a drill gone awry.

The Navy, which runs the hospital with the rest of the U.S. Military, says that while there was a drill planned for that day, an alert was accidentally triggered that did not specify it was a test, causing workers and patients to seek shelter, reports  CBS News

The navy called the incident an “improper use” of the warning system.

“While preparing for an upcoming drill, the notification system inadvertently enacted without containing the words ‘exercise’ or ‘drill,’” the Navy said in a statement Tuesday evening.

The mix-up led to a large police response, including SWAT teams who arrived on the scene at around 2 p.m.

Shortly after, the Facebook account for Naval Support Activity Bethesda read, “There is a report of an active shooter.”

At 2:30 p.m., a tweet was sent out by state Representative Dutch Ruppersberger who was at the hospital during the incident.

“We’ve been told there is an active shooter. I am currently safe in a conference room with approximately 40 others,” his tweet said.

By 3:20 p.m., the Facebook page was updated, indicating that an all-clear had been given and no active shooter was found.

According to a spokesperson from the Pentagon, the whole incident was part of the exercise.

Walter Reed is a hospital where American servicemen and woman are sent to heal from battle wounds. Patients who were forced to take shelter included an amputee and a veteran with a traumatic brain injury.

“Those who could walk were hastily pushed in wheelchairs. There was fear,” said one veteran who did not want to be named. “Some guys grabbed baseball bats or whatever there was to defend [against a potential attacker]. People were silent and sitting in the dark.”

Ruppersberger later said he remained confused about the situation.

“If today’s active shooter investigation at Walter Reed Medical Center was a drill, I clearly did not get the memo and neither did the other people who were told to shelter in place with me, nor did Montgomery County Police and other agencies,” he tweeted.

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About the Author


Katie Malafronte is Campus Safety's Web Editor. She graduated from the University of Rhode Island in 2017 with a Bachelor's Degree in Communication Studies and a minor in Writing & Rhetoric. Katie has been CS's Web Editor since 2018.

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3 responses to “Active Shooter Drill Gone Wrong Causes Panic at Maryland Hospital”

  1. Robert Jones says:

    Was there an assessment taken after the drill was complete? While it was unfortunate that the employees and patients were not aware of this being a drill, there is a lesson to be learned from how the participants responded to what they considered to be a real threat.

  2. Anthony "Guuny" Abbott says:

    To look at the bright side of this is that people did what they were trained to do and if there was a actual shooter(s) but being a vet myself I do feel for what the vets went through at that time but for some of them their training kicked in and they were ready to defend themselves. The hospital that I work Security in just had an active shooter drill a few weeks ago and one of the biggest thing we talked about in pre-planning was to ensure that when it was announced, stating that it was a drill would be announced. But the real problem I had was the State Representative twitting about hiding in a conference room with 40 people. What is this was a actual event and the shooter(s) could get this tweet and look for this conference room. Far fetch but possible. society is so quick to use social media to put out things. Brings flashbacks to me during Desert Shield/Storm when CNN would broadcast where scuds missiles were hitting in Kuwait. Like an forward observer.

  3. Gregory Mactye says:

    Can anyone tell me what the difference is between an “Active” shooter and a “Passive” one ? I suggest we stop using this idiotic phrase, designed by PC morns to make the sheep in school administrations feel better, and simply call lt want it is – an attack by a gunman!

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