Security/Emergency Information

Thinking about camp security

Posted on July 24, 2011

Our hearts and prayers go out to the relatives of the victims of the two attacks in Norway.

There is no credible intelligence about any other plans to attack camps, or that there are plans to attack Jewish camps, in particular. Still, it is appropriate for us to ask, what are the lessons learned from the horrific events in Oslo? What are the best practices for camp security — even while the details are still emerging?

  1. Lone wolves are dangerous. Unfortunately, a variety of people hate Jews and might choose Jews as targets. The need for continued vigilance, without any preconceptions as to who might be dangerous, continues.
  2. Beware of hostile surveillance.  Although the details are still emerging, it is unlikely that the island camp attacker did not try to view the grounds before his attack. Camp staff should be aware of the possibility of hostile surveillance and know how to report if something “just doesn’t look right.” See our tips to detect hostile surveillance here.
  3. Camps are a soft target. There are very few camps that are built with adequate perimeter security. At the same time, an intruder is more than likely to enter through the “front”. It is wise to have someone screening those wishing to enter the camp. That person should have a remote “panic alarm” to alert camp staff if anyone suspicious is seeking entry.
  4. It helps to have a plan.Organizations should have plans to cover emergency situations. All too often, something happens and people are unprepared. It’s better to think about what to do when you have time to think, plan and make arrangements.
  5. Know your options. The NYPD has studied the “active shooter” problem. They recommend that people: a) evacuate to a safe area, if possible; b) go to a “safe room” where people can barricade the door and hide in silence (the problem with most camps is that there are very few options); or  c) to take action against the shooter (by acting quickly and aggressively, collectively and with improvised weapons). According to the NYPD study, 46% of the armed intruder incidents ended via “Option C”.
  6. Build and maintain a relationship with your local police.Camp leadership should meet with local police commanders to work out emergency  protocols. The fact that the suspect came dressed as a police officer is especially troubling. Local police should know how to contact camp leadership immediately and alert camp leaders if they are about to enter the camp.
  7. Know who’s in your camp. Camps should develop credentials to be prominently worn by visitors and some support staff (e.g., bus drivers who might not be well known by other staff members). 

Keeping these items in mind can help make it a positive camp season. This blog welcomes other ideas. You can send your questions and your suggestions to pollockd@jcrcny.org.

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