(WASHINGTON, D.C.) - Congressmen C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (MD-02) and Jamie Raskin (MD-08) issued the following statement after meeting with Naval officials Tuesday to discuss the events that led to an 80-minute active shooter lockdown at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center campus on November 27th. Congressman Ruppersberger was on campus that day and experienced the resulting panic and confusion first-hand. Congressman Raskin represents Walter Reed.
This week, we were provided with a detailed timeline that suggests a Service Member assigned to a tenant on the Naval Support Activity Bethesda campus inadvertently sent messages stating “Exercise Active Shooter” and “Exercise Suspicious Package” to nearly 4,000 people via an emergency alert system that sends voice call, text and email notifications. The Service Member, who we were told had not been properly trained to use the system, intended for the messages to go to only a small group in preparation for a future drill.
About 15 minutes after the alert was sent, a clerk at the front desk of the oncology unit – located in the basement of Building 19 – reported receiving several automated telephone messages stating “active shooter.” The clerk reported they did not hear the words “exercise” or “drill.” The report set into motion pre-planned responses for an active shooter event, focusing on Building 19.
Our concerns center on the welfare of the patients at Walter Reed – many of which are veterans suffering from PTSD and brain injuries – as well as the conflicting messaging coming from the various social media accounts of responding agencies. After a lengthy discussion, we are satisfied that Naval officials share our concerns and are taking proactive steps to correct deficiencies identified during this event. Among other measures, they include:
- Reevaluating who can authorize users of the alert system and who can release messages on that system; updating training requirements before anyone is granted access to the system; setting new controls to prevent a test from triggering an actual response;
- Training and recertifying alert system users on new procedures;
- Revising and updating the entire Emergency Management Plan for NSA Bethesda, including updating protocols for communications between installations and tenant commands during an emergency;
- Developing the ability to provide first responders with keys/access cards and blueprints for all installation buildings;
- Conducting training exercises using revised procedures