Security Test Glitch Locks Down NASA Center
Updated: 1 hour 21 minutes ago
David Lohr ContributorAOL News
(Nov. 5) — A NASA research center in the Cleveland area was locked down today amid unverified reports of a gunman, but the scare turned out to be a security test, according to CNN.
“We’re just advising that today’s emergency situation is over and more importantly that there has not been any shooting at the center,” NASA Glenn spokeswoman Sally Harrington told AOL News. “We are no longer on lockdown and we are back to normal operations.”
The lockdown was at the sprawling NASA Glenn Research Center near Cleveland’s airport. Early reports said a gunman was on the grounds, but NASA officials said later it was a security test, according to CNN.
The “all clear — the emergency is over” announcement came over NASA Glenn’s loudspeakers about 10:50 a.m., WEWS-TV Channel 5 reported.
Deputies with the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Office told WEWS that the lockdown at the facility occurred after an unidentified employee received an automated security test call that said a gunman was inside the building.
Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Lt. Dan Michalowski also said the system sent out a message to loved ones of employees saying there was an emergency there, according to The Plain Dealer in Cleveland.
“There was some confusion and people didn’t realize it was a test,” Michalowski said.
Upon receiving the call, the employee contacted police, and multiple law enforcement agencies responded to the scene. Amid the chaos, rumors began to circulate inside the building that shots had been fired and at least one employee was injured.
“We were shaking in our boots,” NASA Glenn spokeswoman Katherine Martin told MSNBC.com. “All we were told was there was a situation that involved a gun.”
About 3,000 people work at the center, according to CNN.
Despite the false alarm, authorities conducted a search of the facility to rule out the possibility of a gunman or an injured employee. They found nothing during their search.
“When it came to us, it didn’t come in as a test; it came in as an actual possibility,” Brook Park Police Chief Kevin McQuaid told AOL News. “We hadn’t been notified” that it was a security test.
The gunman scare was reminiscent of an actual shooting in 2007 at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. In that case, a man from an engineering company sneaked a gun inside the facility and fatally shot an employee he had a dispute with, before killing himself.
Dr. Park Dietz, a workplace violence expert, says it is not uncommon for agencies to have their priorities backward when it comes to preventing incidents of workplace violence.
“The natural inclination of large organizations is to worry about the wrong thing, and to worry about how they will handle it if it happens, rather than how to prevent it from happening,” said Dietz, founder of the Threat Assessment Group.
“The one thing we have uniformly said is do not hold real-world full-scale tests because if you hold real-world full-scale tests, you are going to cause tremendous anxiety among your employees,” he said. “You are going to do more harm than good.”
If a test is conducted, Dietz said, the most important thing to do is to coordinate it with all local law enforcement and emergency responders so they don’t waste their resources.
“We have had no luck in persuading the government to do things the right way,” Dietz said. “The private sector is way ahead of this and has known for a long time not to do anything this stupid. Just because you are a rocket scientist doesn’t mean you know how to deal with workplace violence.”
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