Security/Emergency Information

Great news: Omnibus Bill has $50M plus for nonprofit security grants

Posted on March 22, 2018

Congressional leaders posted the text of Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018 (aka the Omnibus Bill)) last night. Its passage will keep the government operating for the remainder of the fiscal year. Included in the bill (besides the Taylor Force Act) is an allocation of $50 million (up from $25M) for the Nonprofit Security Grants Program (NSGP) and $10 million for nonprofits outside of the designated UASI regions (Good news for upstate and Connecticut institutions).

We won’t know when the application package will be available or the deadline for submission until the U.S. Department of Homeland Security releases its guidance. People always complain that they aren’t given enough time to complete their applications so we advise you to click to www.jcrcny.org/securitygrants and follow the instructions to get started now.

The projected increase in the grant allocation would not be possible without our Congressional champions. A major push for the $50 million came in a bipartisan “Dear Colleague” letter to the leadership of the House Appropriations Committee (including the Ranking Member, our own Rep. Nita Lowey) circulated by Representatives Bill Pascrell, Jr. and our own Dan Donovan, Jr. Our New York delegation figured prominently among the signers, including: Representatives Yvette Clarke, Joseph Crowley, Eliot Engel, Adriano Espaillat, John Faso, Hakeem Jeffries, John Katko, Peter King, Carolyn Maloney, Gregory Meeks, Jerrold Nadler, Thomas Suozzi, Kathleen Rice, Claudia Tenney and Nydia Velázquez. Of course, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Democratic Leader Charles Schumer were helpful in the Senate. Please contact their offices to let them know that you appreciate their leadership.

JCRC-NY and UJA-Federation are key members of the dynamic coalition that pushes for this legislation year-after-year. The linchpin of this effort is Rob Goldberg of the Washington, DC office of the Jewish Federations of North America. Our friend, William Daroff, the senior vice president for public policy and director of the Washington office of The Jewish Federations of North America, plays an important role.

Security Grants Updates

Posted on March 09, 2018

We continue to get the question, “When will the grant come out?” My standard answer is, “If you can tell me when the federal government will have a budget I might be able to answer that question.”

I am ​pleased to share with you an update from Rob Goldberg at the Jewish Federations of North America. Rob is the father of, and key advocate for, the NSGP.

Nearly six months into fiscal year 2018, action on the unfinished spending package is “possible” next week. The $1.3 trillion omnibus measure is due March 23.  There are still a few polarizing issues that need to be ironed out, particularly within the Labor-HHS-Education, Financial Services and Homeland Security measures due to a combination of policy and funding differences. With respect to homeland security the sticking points pertain to money for border security infrastructure (including “The Wall”) and budgeting for detention beds.

At this point, I believe that the House and Senate Homeland Security negotiators have reached agreement on NSGP spending levels.  While I do not know what level has been determined, I expect it will be somewhere between the $20 million set aside in the Senate HLS Committee’s draft bill and the $50 million approved by the House.  I note that we have been advocating very hard for the House levels.

As of today, we also do not know whether the House agreed to the Senate’s language to extend program eligibility to communities that reside outside of the current established high threat urban areas (as defined by the Urban Area Security Initiative).

​Our view is that if lightning strikes and the Omnibus Bill passes​, it will take DHS about a month to release its FY18 application guidelines, timelines ​(including the deadline for states to forward grant applications) ​and directives​. Then NY DHSES ​will need ​about a week to release its Request for Applications(around the end of April, beginning of May​?).  Last year NY applicants had nine days to complete their paperwork, but the due date depends on the deadline that DHS gives to the states. If the Omnibus Bill passes in March people will have more time than they did last year (best guess, 3-4 weeks), but we strongly advise that you get started now (see the information below​).

Many new applicants find that the most time-consuming step of the process is the Document Vault. We suggest that you plan to complete your Document Vault and get your assessment/survey finished before Passover.

New York State grant. The NY State Division of Homeland Security is currently reviewing the submissions for  the FY 2017-18 Securing Communities Against Hate Crime Program (SCAHC). They anticipate that they will notify the applicants of the results this month. All of the eligible applicants that appropriately and accurately responded to the Request for Applications are likely to receive grants.

Webinar. JCRC-NY will offer a webinar on completing the grant application package once the New York State Request for Applications is released.  We expect there will be few changes in the program (except for the possibility that nonprofits outside of the designated areas will be eligible) so you can click here to view our 2017 guidance to get started.


Getting started


The process and application is likely to be quite similar to last year’s RFA (Request for Applications) :

  • Prequalification. Plan to complete your prequalification before Passover. New York State will not accept applications for grants unless the applicant is prequalified, i.e., applicants must upload basic organizational documents and answer questions about their nonprofit’s capacity and integrity. This portal is known as the “Grants Gateway.”
    • New applicants. See JCRC-NY’s additional information about how to get started and special instructions for religious corporations at: http://www.jcrcny.org/document-vault-faqs/.
    • Previously prequalified. If your nonprofit was previously prequalified, you will still have to update certain documents if your document vault “expires” (i.e, certain information goes out of date). Check out your Document Vault for more information.
  • E-Grants. New York State applicants to both programs must submit all of their application package through the E-grants system. Download the E-Grants Registration and follow the instructions to obtain an account and password. The E-Grants Tutorial shows you how to get through the process.

We get letters…Thoughts on armed or unarmed

Guest post
Pinchas Levin
TaryagDefense.com

A little over a year ago we published a post, Armed or unarmed security, what’s best? which still represents our thinking about armed or unarmed guards. With all of the recent mass shootings one of our loyal readers sent us his thinking on the subject and raised other concerns. The following, which represents his opinion for your consideration, especially regarding the concern that even if a person is licensed to carry a weapon, they might be as dangerous to others as an attacker. We agree that that any armed guards should be required to regularly practice at an appropriate facility and formally qualified to use their weapons effectively.

Re: Arming Teachers

I think we can all agree that no further infringements on the 2nd Amendment would serve any useful purpose in curbing school shootings. “Gun free zones” are as fictional as Santa Claus and the Easter bunny. Every mass shooting in the last 10 years took place in a “gun free zone”. Obviously (to most rational people!) no perpetrator is likely to choose a venue where somebody might shoot back! But, as for “teachers with guns”, simply HAVING a gun doesn’t afford any protection at all and, on the contrary, in unskilled hands would likely cause injury to any number of innocent bystanders. Unless they are highly skilled and practiced, armed civilians are simply a menace to society.

When I became responsible for security at my shul, I discovered that a dozen men were carrying (it’s Texas, after all). I interviewed them to determine their level of competence and learned that most hadn’t fired their gun in years, couldn’t specify its make or model, and probably could not have picked it from a police lineup. Imagine the mayhem that would result in a crowded room if a dozen unskilled shooters decided to shoot at a perpetrator. Could they hit their target at all, let alone with the adrenaline pumping? Would they be aware of what’s BEHIND their target, or how many walls their rounds would penetrate – both within and outside the building?

Defensive shooting in a public space requires extensive mental and practical preparation – study, practice, previewing and situational awareness, not to mention an understanding of local and state laws. I promptly posted a “guns prohibited” sign on the front door (called an “Ordinance 30.06” sign in Texas) and then tried to find a few IDF or US veterans who could pass the US Marshal Service Course of Fire – a basic shooting skills test used at another Orthodox synagogue in town. Unfortunately, after more than a year, I’m still the only person who has passed it – and it’s astonishingly basic. In desperation, I requested that one IDF Infantry vet and one US Paratrooper vet, both combat-seasoned – although some years ago – carry in the congregation on Shabbos.

For public schools, a more practical approach would perhaps be to limit access to the building, deploy metal detectors, silent [panic button] alarms and skilled defensive shooters at school entrances and exits; and very importantly, to indemnify them and their institutions against corollary death or injury.

Speaking of which, schools and religious institutions need to be covered by a publicly funded insurance program in the event of a terror threat or defensive shooting. I’ve discussed this issue with both Cornerstone’s (Rev. Hagee’s) security people and those at the other Orthodox synagogue in town. We all examined our insurance policies and found that none of us currently have or are able to obtain liability insurance that protects anyone other than the insurance company – a major risk to all of us. [Editor’s note: we recommend that you discuss this issue with your insurance broker.]

Re: silent alarms: I have received halachic permission (perkuach ha nefesh – to preserve a life) to issue small pager buttons – mostly to women who tend to children in the foyer and hallways – that sound a soft chime in my talit bag in the event of a perceived threat or emergency. [Editor’s note: JCRC-NY does not make halachic determinations. Please consult your own rabbi for guidance.] No simple solutions here!

Posted in Active shooter

Not Again! Lessons learned from the Florida school shooting

The horror is almost too much to fathom. Thousands of parents sent their kids off to school in the morning and learned by phone, text, tweet or post that their child was, or may have been, the victim of another mass shooting. We mourn the loss of 17 souls cut off in their youth, we pray for the full recovery of the injured and our hearts and prayers go out to the survivors and their families. This is a time for all Americans to come together as one family.

The most effective emergency response plans are those that are constantly reviewed, critiqued and improved (See more about evolving plans here). JCRC-NY has a dedicated webpage: www.jcrcny.org/activeshooter with many resources to help organizations plan active shooter responses.

While there are still many details left to be learned from this episode, those of us who are responsible for the safety and security of those in our institutions and organizations have to ask ourselves what can we learn to improve our plans and our preparedness. Here are some thoughts to consider as you review your active shooter plans or make new ones:

From 2017 National Crime Victims’ Rights Week Resource Guide: Crime and Victimization Fact Sheets (click on the image to view) based on J. Pete Blair and Katherine W. Schweit, A Study of Active Shooter Incidents, 2000-2013, (Texas State University, FBI, 2014),  and B Katherine W. Schweit, Active Shooter Incidents in the United States in 2014 and 2015, (FBI, 2016).

  • There is no such thing as a perfect plan. According to media reports, the shooter at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School was a former student. As such he had a lot of information on the layout of the building, the students and staff, and the emergency procedures (he may have even participated in an active shooter drill). He also reportedly attended anti-government-extremist militia training (Click to the ADL information here). His plan was well-conceived and and he spent time and money to aquire what he needed to lethally carry it out.
  • No matter what, preparation and training helps. President and General Dwight D. Eisenhower observed, “In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” Plans that detail every possible eventuality are often too cumbersome to execute. People must clearly know who is in charge, what they can do, and how to get the resources they need to respond to an emergency. Organizations that have plans; train staff and users; practice with drills; identify and supply resources; and critique and revise their plans on an ongoing basis are more likely to save lives when an emergency arises. Please consider that an incident, such as the one in Florida, should be viewed as an opportunity to take your existing plan off the shelf, dust it off and use this scenario to revise and upgrade your plan. Tabletops with participants ranging from the security and maintanance staffs to the CEO of the organization should sit down — with local law enforcement present — for such a review.
  • Prepare for times of heightened vulnerability. Many organizations’ plans and exercises are limited the most frequent scenarios, e.g., all of the kids in class at 9:30 AM. That’s a good first step. The Florida attack took advantage of one of the most chaotic times of the school day: dismissal. Make sure that your security posture adapts for those chaotic times (e.g., have extra staff at the front door during arrivals and dismissals so that your security staff can concentrate on security rather than helping people with their strollers). Plan and drill for the non-regular situations, e.g., arrivals and dismissals, cafeteria time, after school programs, assemblies and special events.
  • Identify potential problems on an ongoing basis. According to media reports the shooter had been expelled from the school for disciplinary reasons. That should be a red flag. Did anyone recognize him and try to keep him out of the building? Students noticed disturbing posts on Instagram. Did they feel comfortable enough to pass the information along to the appropriate parties? Other examples of problemmatic situations are people in the midst of messy custody disputes, people suspected of contemplating suicide and terminated employees. Organizations should have protocols in place that create the expectation that people noticing something should report it, even though they might think that “it could be nothing”. There should be procedures in place to evaluate the information and call in professionals, e.g., school psychologists, and/or law enforcement agencies. Finally, security should be notified and have specific orders as to how to handle a situation if a potentially problemmatic turns up.
  • Do you have what you need? Lockdowns are difficult if you haven’t identified and equipped safe spaces. Do you have a plan and the technology to communicate instantly to all of your constituencies? Do you have on staff someone who is a trained EMT or paramedic who can respond before the first responders?
  • Empower your leaders. Too many organizations view active shooters and other emergencies from the top down. We’ve seen too many plans that include, as a first step, “Go find Rabbi Plony”. There will rarely be time to consult and coordinate your response. In the event of an emergency, make sure that your staff know what their best options are (based on their training), have the resources available and are empowered to make the best choice possible under the circumstances. Hesitation could prove to be fatal. Technology, such as messaging apps, walkie-talkies, panic buttons can help the incident leaders and law enforcement develop a better response.
  • Access control is critical. Once a shooter is in the building things can go very wrong, very fast. Have protocols for regular users, staff, visitors, tradespeople and deliveries and more (see JCRC-NY’s Sample Building Access Policies & Procedures). All doors should locked until a person is identified and authorized via video/audio intercoms. Your access control systems should notify security personnel when a secondary door is opened so the door can be monitored.
  • Build a culture of security. We can’t say this enough. It may be polite to hold a locked door open for another person approaching the building, but this practice undermines your security protocols. Everyone in the building must feel responsible for the security of others. All those using your building should maintain security awareness and be willing to step forward and report if something “just doesn’t look right.”
  • If you see something, say something. Everyone should feel responsible to report suspicious activity. At JCRC-NY we regularly pick up the phone and the caller says, “I don’t know if this is anything, but …” People should not only be encouraged to report, but they should feel comfortable to do so. The investigation of the Toro brothers  began after someone at the Harlem Charter School where one of them was employed saw something and said something. Make it part of your security culture.
Posted in Active shooter

Happy Tax Identity-theft Awareness week

Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week is a campaign run by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) from January 29 to February 2 to spread awareness of tax-related identity theft and IRS imposter scams. The FTC, IRS, Department of Veteran Affairs, and others are hosting various events throughout the week to educate the public on these threats.
Tax identity theft remains one of the top scams listed on the IRS “Dirty Dozen” list and, although safeguards put in place by the agency in 2016 did reduce the number of fraudulent tax returns processed last year, large-scale data breaches that exposed hundreds of millions of American’s personal and financial information have drastically increased the risk that identity theft and tax fraud will occur in 2018. Tax return preparer fraud also remains a concern as dishonest preparers often surface this time of year to target unsuspecting victims and use their personal information to conduct tax refund fraud and identity theft.

  • File your tax return as early as possible.
  • Use a secure internet connection to file electronically, or mail your tax return directly at the post office.
  • Never respond to emails, texts, or social media communications claiming to be from the IRS. The IRS will only contact you by mail. Report any suspicious or unsolicited emails claiming to be sent from the IRS to phishing@irs.gov.
  • Never provide personal information to anyone purporting to be an IRS representative who contacts you via an unsolicited telephone call. Instead record the caller’s name, badge number and a call back number. Hang up and then contact the IRS at 1-800-366-4484 to determine if the caller is an IRS employee with a legitimate need to contact you. Also, remember that the IRS will never call demanding immediate payment of taxes owed or a specific method of payment, such as a prepaid debit card, gift card, or wire transfer.
  • Monitor your credit report to verify there is no unauthorized activity.
  • Enroll in the IRS Identity Protection Pin (IP PIN) program to obtain a 6-digit pin.

Organization payroll and human resources departments must remain vigilant in safeguarding employee tax records. Cybercriminals target HR and payroll departments using various social engineering schemes designed to trick them into believing upper management has made an urgent request for employee W-2 forms. Because these schemes are often very sophisticated and convincing, many targets act on the request quickly without taking additional steps to verify the source. Payroll and HR officials should be wary of any requests for employee W-2 forms or Social Security numbers and security procedures should be implemented that require the written approval of multiple people before a request for personal information is fulfilled. The following are additional IRS tips for protecting yourself against potential tax identity theft:

  • IR-2017-193: Online Security – Seven Steps for Safety
  • IR-2017-194: Don’t Take the Bait; Avoid Phishing Emails by Data Thieves
  • IR-2017-196: Victims of Data Breaches Should Consider These Steps
  • IR-2017-197: Employers, Payroll Officials, Avoid the W-2 Email Scam
  • IR-2017-198: Small Businesses: Be Alert to Identity Theft
  • IR-2017-211: Get Ready for Taxes: Choosing a Tax Return Preparer?
  • IR-2017-203: IRS Warns Taxpayers, Tax Pros of New Email Scam Targeting Hotmail Users
Posted in Cybersecurity