Dover Air Force Base went into a security lockdown Thursday following the report of a suspicious person near several aircraft hangars. The report was later determined to be unfounded.
Security Forces personnel at Dover Air Force Base shut down all entrances and exits from the facility for almost four hours Thursday while they worked to locate what was thought to be an armed person reportedly spotted near several hangars.
Emergency procedures, dubbed a lockdown, were put into place at 11 a.m. and all persons on base were ordered to stay in their workplaces, said 1st Lt. Mesha Nelson of the 436th Airlift Wing Public Affairs Office.
“There was a report from an individual who believed they saw someone running across a parking lot toward a building, carrying a weapon,” Nelson said.
The individual reported the suspicious person and the decision was made to lockdown the base, Nelson said.
Security personnel then swept the entire base but found nothing to support the initial report, she said.
The base resumed normal operations at 2:40 p.m.
Safety a ‘top priority’
During the lock down, base gates, which open onto Bay Road were secured, preventing anyone from leaving; cars were being turned away from the main gate, which also was blocked off with stop strips, designed to shred the tires of any car trying to get through.
Trucks were lined up along Bay Road at the commercial entrance south of the main gate as security forces airmen blocked the entryway. The large metal gates preventing entrance to the northern part of the base also were securely shut.
The safety of all personnel on base is the top priority whenever this situation presents itself, said Col. Randy Huiss, vice commander of the 436th Airlift Wing.
“We take this report very seriously and are taking the necessary precautions to investigate the matter,” he said.
Traffic was allowed into and out of the base housing area opposite the main gate, although parents wishing to pick up their children from the schools on that side were told they would need to show identification before their children were released.
Access also was temporarily restricted at the Air Mobility Command Museum on the south part of the base.
However, as the museum is separated from the main base by a barbed-wire topped chain link fence, lockdown at the facility was terminated after approximately 20 minutes, said Museum Director Mike Leister.
“As soon as we got the word, we locked all entrances to the building,” Leister said. Visitors who were outside the main hangar, looking at the aircraft on display, were quickly brought inside, he added.
Dave Benner, who was visiting the museum from Allentown, Pa., arrived just as the doors were being locked.
“We couldn’t get in the door, but someone let us in,” Benner said. “They told us it was probably safer inside than outside.”
A U.S. Army change of command ceremony that started at the same time the lockdown was announced went on uninterrupted.
“They didn’t miss a beat,” said museum volunteer Larry Koewig. “They were all in place, and it was seamless.”
Announcing the lockdown and bringing people in from the outside was kept low-key.
“We didn’t want any consternation or alarm,” Koewig said.
Nelson said that the report of a suspicious person, even though it eventually proved false, was a valuable exercise for the base.
“It’s a good thing for us because people are reporting suspicious activity,” she said. “We encourage our airmen to do so.”