Category Archive: Jewish Security

Are you prepared? 5 steps to make your facility safer and more secure

Posted on August 30, 2017

(Click here to download a PDF of this webpage)

Organizational leaders should work to strike a balance: to offer a warm and welcoming facility, while at the same time ensuring that their members, students, staffs, clients and building are safe and secure. Leaders concerned with everybody’s safety and security should prepare to deal with emergencies, because “on the fly” reflexes might not be as effective as a pre-determined and rehearsed plan. While your “to-do” list at the beginning of the academic and program year is long, consider these tips to help you prepare for emergencies and ensure you can protect your constituencies.

1.  Control access to your facility

No unauthorized person should be allowed to enter your facility. Every person entering your facility should be screened by security (or other) staff.

  • Limit entrances and exits. Limit access to your facility to monitored entrances.
  • Don’t slow down regular users. Create a system to identify regulars (e.g., staff, members).
  • Screen irregular visitors. g., people with appointments, contractors, etc. See more at Sample Building Access Policies & Procedures.
  • Divide your building into sectors. Should people authorized to use one part of the building be able to wander into another? If you have an access control system, take advantage of its capabilities to allow specific access. Alternatively, use color-coded badges, wristbands or ID cards as a low-tech solution.

2. Plan your emergency response

Stuff happens. Emergencies are not events that you can handle on the fly. Consider having plans, procedures and designated teams empowered to make decisions during emergencies, and trained and prepared to respond to events.

  • Develop and train an emergency response team. Designate someone to be in charge during an emergency and someone else as backup. Build a support team. Have the team work together on your response plans.
  • Build a relationship with your local police.Work with your local police throughout the year and give them the opportunity to get to know your programs, your rhythms, your people and your building. Ask them for suggestions as to how to make your people safer.
  • Know what to do if you receive a threat. Get some ideas about preparing for phone, email or social media threats and evacuations and sheltering at: http://www.jcrcny.org/2017/02/to-evacuate-or-not-to-evacuate-that-is-the-question/.
  • Have an “active shooter” Do the people in your facility know what to do if a person with a gun or sharp-edged weapon shows up? Find more information at: www.jcrcny.org/activeshooter.
  • Be ready to tell people what’s happening. Don’t let your stakeholders learn about an emergency at your facility from the media. Be prepared to communicate. Have some pre-written messages: be first; be right; be credible. Consider options including hardware and web-based emergency notification systems that will simultaneously email, text and phone pre-prepared lists, dedicated social media groups or free apps such as WhatsApp or GroupMe that will send texts (including a link to your website with more info and updates). Now is the time to collect the cell numbers of your stakeholders.
  • Involve your board in the security and preparedness process.

3. Develop a routine

Security, done well, must be done daily and involve everybody.

  • Create a culture of security. Everyone should feel responsible to report suspicious activity. “If you see something, say something” should be part of your culture of security.
  • Be aware of hostile surveillance. If you see something, say something. If it is not an emergency, call the NYPD at (888) NYC-SAFE, outside NYC (866) SAFE-NYS. For more information download Indicators of Terrorist Activity from the NYPD, Guide to Detecting Surveillance of Jewish Institutions from the ADL at adl.org/security and Security Awarenessby Paul DeMatties at Global Security Risk Management,  LLC.
  • Schedule regular walkarounds. Designate an employee to complete a “walkaround” of your building and your perimeter on a daily basis, if not more often. They should be looking for suspicious objects, items blocking evacuation routes and anything else that “Just Doesn’t Look Right.”
  • Make sure you’re getting the right information. Sign up for alerts to learn when the local and/or global security threats conditions change. Sources: JCRC-NY Security Alerts at jcrcny.org/security, https://www.nypdshield.org/public/signup.aspx, emergency alerts from Notify NYC or your local emergency management office and have a weather app on your smartphone to warn you about severe weather.
  • Work with your security provider and your staff to write, “post orders”. Your guards should not merely decorate your entrance. They should know what you expect them to do daily and in emergencies.

4. Don’t forget to train

Major leaguers take batting practice before every game. True, they started batting in the Little Leagues, but drills help people to know, instinctively, what to do. Emergencies that turn to chaos become crises. People know what to do during a fire drill, because they have participated in fire drills since grade school.

Use tabletop exercises involving a wide swath of stakeholders to help you to determine policies and procedures. Once you have determined your plans and procedures, schedule evacuation and lockdown drills. And remember … once is not enough.

5. Explore your security hardware options

Your security hardware should support your security procedures. There are federal and New York State grants available for many organizations (see: www.jcrcny.org/securitygrants for more details). Consider obtaining the funding for:

  • Your main and secondary doors should lock securely and be able to withstand an attack by a determined intruder.
  • Do your windows lock securely? Reduce the risk of break-ins, vandalism and even mitigate the extent of injuries from bomb blasts by properly installing security/blast-mitigation film on your current windows or replacing them with windows with those properties built-in.
  • Access control systems. The electronic possibilities are endless: access cards, biometrics, alarms and more. Get professional advice (see JCRC-NY’s guidance on Security vendors), figure out a hardware plan that is expandable and adaptable.
  • Video monitoring. Deploy CCTV systems in various ways. First, as part of a video intercom system to identify people seeking to enter your facility. Second, to monitor secondary entrances (you can add alarms that warn you that a door was opened, alerting someone to check the monitor), and finally, to help to detect hostile surveillance.
 David Pollock and Paul DeMatteis
security@jcrcny.org | August 30, 2017

During Pesach, heightened vigilance is required

Posted on April 10, 2017

EVENT ASSESSMENT

While there are no reports indicating a specific threat to New York City or Jewish institutions during the Passover holiday, religious institutions and religious figures remain attractive targets for multiple terrorist groups—to include al-Qa’ida and the Islamic State of Iraq and ash Sham(ISIS)—and their adherents. Al-Qa’ida and ISIS have consistently called for attacks against Israel and Jewish interests and recent propaganda from both groups have urged sympathizers to carry out attacks using a range of tactics, including vehicle ramming, edged weapons, improvised explosive devices, and Molotov cocktails.

Terrorist groups and their sympathizers have targeted synagogues and other Jewish locations in the past, both abroad and here in the United States. In December 2016, Austrian authorities disrupted an alleged plot to target a synagogue on the first night of Hanukkah. Two individuals, one of whom was known to authorities, were questioned by police and found to be carrying knives intended for use against the rabbi and his congregants. In May of 2014, ISIL-linked French operative Mehdi Nemmouche opened fire with an assault rifle on a Jewish museum in Brussels, Belgium, resulting in the deaths of four people. In 2016, there were several foiled attack attempts at Jewish institutions in the United States. On April 29, James Gonzalo Medina, a convert to Islam, was arrested by the FBI for attempting to bomb the Aventura Turnberry Jewish Center in Florida during services on the seventh day of Passover. The FBI also foiled the plot of Mahin Khan, a self-described “American jihadist,” after he sought to build pipe and pressure cooker bombs.

Khan considered several targets, including the JCC in Tucson, Arizona. He was arrested in July 2016 after he contacted an individual he believed to be an ISIS fighter.

In addition to the threat from foreign terrorist organizations, domestic terrorism increasingly threatens minority groups and institutions in the United States. In February 2017, a South Carolina white supremacist was arrested after an undercover investigation indicated that he was planning to attack minorities in the local area, and had by that point purchased a weapon to do so. The suspect, Benjamin McDowell, allegedly wanted to replicate Dylann Roof’s mass casualty attack and made a number of online threats against a local synagogue. He further made public statements in support of violent white supremacist ideology, according to press reports.

Hate crimes continue to rise around the United States, a number of which have been anti-Semitic in nature. In addition to the desecration of grave sites at cemeteries in Philadelphia and St. Louis, the Anti-Defamation League stated that there have been at least 166 bomb threats made to Jewish institutions across 38 states in the U.S. and three Canadian provinces since January 2017, none of which resulted in the discovery of explosives. On March 23, 2017, 18-year-old Michael Ron David Kadar, a dual US-Israeli citizens, was arrested by Israel on suspicion of making more than 100 bomb threats against JCCs in the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand over the past six months. Kadar’s motive remains unknown. In St. Louis, Juan Thompson was arrested for making at least eight threats to Jewish institutions around the country, including the Jewish History Museum in Manhattan, and Jewish schools and a local JCC.

Despite the arrests of two individuals associated with the multiple, unfounded bomb threats, it is probable that other like-minded individuals may seek to carry out similar threats against Jewish locations given the extensive high-profile media coverage these threats received.

The series of anonymous, unfounded bomb threats against multiple targets was likely intended to spread fear, create considerable disruptions to business and people’s lives, and generate financial costs. Bomb threats can also create soft targets; evacuations of large groups of people into the open offer possible attackers a large, predictable target in a desired location vulnerable to a variety of attacks, to include active shooters, improved explosive devices, edged weapons, and vehicle-ramming assaults.

If You See Something, Say Something – 1-888-NYC-SAFE (1-888-692-7233)

New York State Security Funding

Posted on April 10, 2017

This year’s New York State budget includes the following allocation. Obviously, the details are still pending.

“Capital Projects Funds – Other Capital Project Fund Program Improvement/Change Purpose For competitive grants to provide safety and security projects at nonpublic schools, community centers and day care facilities at risk of hate crimes or attacks because of their ideology, beliefs or mission.

Provided that an assessment of facilities at risk may include, but not be limited to, considerations of the vulnerabilities of the organization based on its location and membership, and the potential consequences of a hate crime or attack at the facility. The amount appropriated herein may be transferred or suballocated to the division of homeland security and emergency services to accomplish the intent of this appropriation.”

Note: the language “considerations of the vulnerabilities of the organization based on its location and membership” differs from the classic definition of vulnerability,”any weakness that can be exploited by an aggressor, or in a non-terrorist environment, make an asset susceptible to hazard damage. (FEMA, Building Design for Homeland Security)”, i.e., gaps in physical security. Location and membership are usually considered in a threat analysis in the classic security equation: risk=threat + vulnerability + consequences.

The language gives DHSES responsibility for the grants. Stay tuned for more information.

To evacuate or not to evacuate? That is the question.

With over 150 hoax bomb threats reported, you should have already have a plan. However, the ongoing threats should serve as a reminder to review our ongoing guidance, make use of the resources and implement the recommendations, as appropriate.

Should we be worried? At this time the experts conclude that the series of
incidents referencing threats against schools, Jewish facilities and businesses likely do not represent a credible terrorist threat for two reasons:

  1. terrorists’ rarely provide operational insight into their planning, and
  2. the fact that nearly all hoaxes in the United States are conducted by criminal actors or those instigating a nuisance prank.

From “Bomb Threat Guidance” from US DHS and the FBI. Click on the image to download the brochure.

What are my options? Many security experts question the wisdom of the policy of evacuation. After all, a terrorist could trigger an evacuation of a facility with a simple phone call and then attack the evacuees in multiple ways. On the other hand, someone could place 100 hoax bomb threat calls, but actually plant a bomb on the 101st. (In rebuttal, why make a warning phone call when simply planting the bomb works).

The bottom line is that there is no perfect solution, so all institutions should think about their options and consult with local law enforcement in the absence of the pressure of an actual emergency.

Think about options

Your response should be tailored to the nature of the threat. Don’t expect people to gather information, to analyze the situation and to identify the best option in the wake of a threat. Understand the risk (use the chart to the left) and define actions that can be taken under various circumstances.

Some other ideas:

  • Set up a meeting with your local police to review and discuss your options.
  • There is no perfect solution. This is an issue that should be raised at a security committee or board meeting. Remember, your reputation is at stake and your decision may create liability issues.
  • Identify possible options leading to a sheltered evacuation, i.e., one that minimizes the dangers of an attack on evacuees:
  • Is your parking lot a relatively safe area? Could you evacuate there and stand an appropriate distance from your facility? Is there a sheltered path to an adjoining building? Can the local police establish a perimeter to protect the evacuees?
  • Develop appropriate protective measures based on your facility’s characteristics. For example, some facility managers have identified areas (e.g., a pool or gym) that are not cluttered and therefore, easy to check for bombs. If the architecture of the building is engineered so that the building would not likely collapse on those inside, one option is to evacuate people to these safe (or more accurately, safer) places (HT to Steve Levy of ISA).
  • Communicate, early and often. If you decide not to evacuate, some stakeholders will question your judgement and try to second-guess you. A well-planned sheltered evacuation option is easy to explain and to show that your highest priority is the safety of your stakeholders. Whatever you choose, have pre-written messages ready to go should you become a target.

No one can give you a perfect answer. Identify your options, consult with the best people possible and keep your people safe.

Attacks on Jews in the U.S. 1969-2016

From: Terrorist Incidents and Attacks Against Jews and Israelis in the United States, 1969-2016, Community Security Service

From: Terrorist Incidents and Attacks Against Jews and Israelis in the United States, 1969-2016, Community Security Service.

Take a look at the important new CSS publication, Terrorist Incidents and Attacks Against Jews and Israelis in the United States, 1969-2016by our talented, good friend, Yehudit Barsky, with a forward by another friend, Mitchell D. Silber. The publication supplements the JCRC’s own Selective Threat Scan which was designed to assist Nonprofit Security Grant Program applicants complete the “Threat” and “Consequences” sections of the Investment Justification.

Here’s the Executive Summary of the document which aligns with JCRC’s ongoing advice:

It is vital that the American Jewish community, together with our law enforcement partners, learn the lessons of the past, understand the nature of the challenges arrayed against it, and take the proper precautions to ensure that violent acts against Jews and Jewish institutions can be prevented in the future.

  • Jewish targets often serve as precursors to larger attacks: Perpetrators of well-known larger attacks, such as the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, were first involved in anti-Jewish incidents.
  • Awareness is critical: In many of these incidents, perpetrators conducted pre-operational surveillance. Training and engagement of community members to detect suspicious activity is thus essential.
  • A need to invest in community security infrastructure: The Jewish community can ill afford passivity and apathy against security threats. The community should broaden its understanding of what effective security entails, and invest in initiatives that provide tangible results. Foremost amongst these strategies is ensuring community members have the training and capacity to assist in securing their own communities, and partnering more closely with law enforcement agencies.

Unfortunately, much as we do not care to admit it to ourselves, the threats are real; there have been too many incidents to deny that. Now in the second decade of the twenty-first century, we find ourselves in an era where those who promote anti-Jewish rhetoric and instigation have the technical tools to reach a broader audience in less time than ever before. In fact, as recently as March 2016, the Islamic State in Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS) publicly encouraged its followers to attack Jews and their allies, “wherever they find them.”

It is vital that the American Jewish community, together with our law enforcement partners, learn the lessons of the past, understand the nature of the challenges arrayed against it, and take the proper precautions to ensure that violent acts against Jews and Jewish institutions can be prevented in the future.

Click here for the full report.