Active shooter false alarm locks down medical center and schools | News, Sports, Jobs


An electrical short during a construction project at Station Medical Center on Monday sparked a “active shooter” alarm, accompanied by a brief confinement.

The short circuit was “interpreted as an activation”, said UPMC spokesman Ed DeWitt.

The early afternoon incident was ” cleaned up “ in about five minutes, DeWitt said.

About five Altoona police units responded to the scene, according to an observer who spoke to the Mirror.

The short occurred when a metal-clad cable powered by electricians working to create a pacemaker suite simultaneously touched both contacts of a panic button relay inside a a wall, according to facility manager Dave Mentzer.

It was the equivalent of pressing the button, Mentzer said.

This led to an announcement throughout the building and from loudspeakers on the roof, “Bronze code, take cover, active shooter” over and over again, Mentzer said.

It also automatically locked the doors inside and alerted security personnel to lock the doors outside, he said.

And that led to “the police (coming) in force to clear the building and take all precautions”, he said.

Russell Stone was an Occupational Health Service patient when the alarm went off.

A nurse took him to an examination room and ordered him to stay there until “we’re coming to get you” he said then outside the establishment.

“What was that Sam Hill?” he told himself at the time.

The incident was “exciting,” but “softened” quickly, Stone said.

Facilities management then disabled the button in the room being renovated, Mentzer said.

In response to the 911 transmission regarding the alarm, the Altoona Area School District closed its high school, high school, Penn Lincoln Elementary School, and the Greater Altoona Career and Technology Center. “as a precaution” according to an email sent to parents.

The school closures lasted about five minutes, according to the email.

The Mirror’s staff writer, William Kibler, is at 814-949-7038.

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