A community college in Maryland became the latest site of an active-shooter scare Wednesday when a text alert about a gunman on campus flashed across thousands of cellphones in the suburbs outside Washington.
Five to six minutes later came an all-caps text-message with an all-clear: “THERE IS NO ARMED PERSON. THE MESSAGE WAS SENT IN ERROR. THERE IS NO THREAT.”
The false alarm was the result of someone at the college mistakenly sending an active-shooter “template,” said Marcus Rosano, college spokesman, who called it human error. It went out to the 8,960 cellphones manually subscribed to college’s alert system.
“This is a moment that is hard to take and hopefully we’re going to be better in our emergency communications from here on out,” he said.
The college, with 24,000 full-time students and many thousands more who attend part time, rolled out a new alert system in September, Rosano said. Training has been given, but more is needed, he said.
The college is reassessing its emergency notification protocol, he said.
“We need to continue to train and we need to make sure everyone who has access is trained and knows how to use the system properly,” he said. “If this scared students or parents, we deeply apologize.”
Montgomery College has campuses in Rockville, Takoma Park and Germantown.
The Maryland mishap follows the frightening false alert in Hawaii in January, which lasted 38 minutes and sent people rushing to take cover. Authorities had mistakenly warned: “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.”
The Maryland incident also came as the latest false alert to hit college campuses.
Lower Columbia College in Oregon had one in January, and the University of Southern California was locked down in October after reports of an active shooter on campus.
The USC alert was especially frightening for many people, following the deadly shooting in Las Vegas a day earlier.