When is a “hello” not merely a “hello”?

Remember: only “approved” individuals should be able to enter your facility. The right greeting can be a critical component of your security protocols, and help you to balance the need to be warm and welcoming, while making sure that everyone who comes through our doors is safe and secure. Security goes beyond just having solid doors. In the real world someone has the responsibility to observe, evaluate suspicious behaviors — and ultimately — decide who to admit?

Technology offers many solutions (ID cards, fobs, facial recognition, biometrics and more) to verify those who we know, but what about those we don’t?  It all comes down to screening. A screener can be an employee or a volunteer. What’s important is that they know your people.

Who shows up at our doors?

Three types of people show up at our doors
  1. The vast majority of the people who attend religious services are regulars. It is best practice to have someone at the door who knows most of the attendees and will welcome them upon arrival. They fill the largest bucket.
  2. A warm, simple greeting (Welcome, is this your first time here? Are you looking for someone in particular?) will usually elicit a response (e.g., I’m here for the Cohen bar mitzvah). Take the time to ask the Cohen’s for their guest list. Your screener can readily check that the visitor is on the list. These visitors fit into the smaller, second bucket.
  3. That leaves the Unknowns. What steps should be taken when an unknown is at the door. How can the screener decide whether an Unknown is a threat or a potential member of your congregation or facility?

DHS CISA‘s new guide

Simply saying “Hello” can prompt a casual conversation with a new person, providing an opportunity to observe and establish a connection. CISA calls it the “OHNO approach–Observe, Initiate a Hello, Navigate the Risk, and Obtain Help” developed to enable screeners to observe and evaluate suspicious behaviors, and to empower them to lower the risk and obtain help when necessary.

This guide promotes employee vigilance for our houses of worship stakeholders. Alert personnel can spot suspicious activity and report it. Keeping houses of worship facilities secure while sustaining the open and welcoming environment necessary for peaceful congregation requires a holistic approach to security.

Download these materials and think about how this guidance can make your facility safe and secure, without undermining your wish to be warm and welcoming. As always, institutions in New York City, Long Island and Westchester can reach out to their Community Security Initiative (CSI) regional security manager for assistance. Click here to send an email. Check out the new CSI video here.

Download links

Power of Hello Slicksheet (272.54 KB)
Power Hello Placemat (313.91 KB)
The Power of Hello Houses of Worship guide (2.1 MB)