COVID Reopening and Reentry

Category Archive: Jewish Security

Bomb threats/hoaxes: are you ready?

As reported in the JTA Daily Briefing, 19 Jewish organizations (mostly JCC’s) received an email threat yesterday (Sunday) morning. The threat alleged that the writer was concerned about an immigration issue and threatened to remotely detonate bombs if a certain demand was not met. The Community Security Initiative (a joint program of UJA-Federation and JCRC-NY) immediately communicated with our local and federal partners. The consensus was that the threat was not credible.

Do you have a threat procedure? Do you regularly review your procedures and/or drill? Should we be worried?

At this time the experts conclude that incidents referencing threats against schools, Jewish facilities and businesses are not likely t0 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.

Consider yesterday’s incidents to be a drill

Now is a good time to review your threat protocols. Of course you call 911, but are the right people authorized to do so. Who else needs to be notified? Should you evacuate? Who makes the decision? Learn more about bomb threats and more on our dedicated webpage: www.jcrcny.org/bomb

Evacuations can be tricky. Review our post, To evacuate or not to evacuate? That is the question. Triggering an evacuation could be an effective part of an active threat plan, with an attacker waiting outside to shoot, stab, bomb or ram those fleeing the building.

Bottom line. Consider identifying a relatively safe haven within your building (e.g., a gym or auditorium). Create a protocol to ensure that the safe haven in inspected every day to confirm that there are no suspicious objects present. If a threat is delivered, the safe haven can be quickly checked and the building occupants can temporarily be moved into that room. After the police arrive, they should check the immediate surroundings for possible threats before the people are allowed to exit.

Of course, there’s an old Army saying (sometimes attributed to Gen. Eisenhower) that, “Plans are worthless, but planning is essential.” May we never need to implement those plans.

 

Federal and NY State security grants updates

Eligible nonprofits can now apply for both state and federal grants to upgrade their security. Some requirements apply to both sets of grants.

  1. All not-for-profit organizations must be prequalified in order to do business with New York State and to apply for grants. See the options below, under the appropriate grant.
  2. All New York State applicants must submit their grants through the E-Grants system. If you are already registered, use your existing username and password. If you need to register download the E-Grants Registration Form.
  3. Not-for-Profit (NFP) organizations receiving an award greater than $50,000 are required to complete a Vendor Responsibility Questionnaire.  This form is available at http://www.osc.state.ny.us/vendrep/forms_vendor.htm .  Vendors can also file the Vendor Responsibility Questionnaire online through the Office of the State Comptroller (OSC) New York State VendRep System.  To enroll and use the OSC NYS VendRep system, instructions are available at http://www.osc.state.ny.us/vendrep/index.htm

For New York State assistance contact DHSES at 1-866-837-9133 or email them at Grant.Info@dhses.ny.gov. To submit a question to us email to security.requests@jcrcny.org. Click on the buttons below for the necessary forms and the most up-to-date information. Click to the Community Security Initiative (a joint program of UJA-Federation and JCRC-NY) tutorials below for more information and guidance.

UASI

Federal Grant

Hate Crime

New York State Grant

In New York, federal Request for Applications due on March 18, 2020 by 5:00 p.m. Any at-risk nonprofit is eligible to apply for grants up to $100,000. Note the NSGP-UA is for organizations within a designated Urban Area (in NY:  NYC, Long Island and Westchester). Outside the NY Urban Area apply for the NSGP-S grant.

Click on the button above for the official downloads. Here are some additional helpful presentations and sources:

Some changes from last year.

New York State has two possible grants (check the eligibility criteria) and the due date for both Request for Applications is March 16, 2020 by 5:00 p.m. Organizations eligible to apply may request up to $50,000 per site. 

Click on the button above for the official downloads. Here are some additional helpful presentations and sources:

Note: State grant applicants may prequalify using a “streamlined” process found at https://grantsmanagement.ny.gov/securing-communities . Those prequalifying using the traditional prequalification process are prequalified for both grants.

Eligibility

 For the $25 million Securing Communities Against Hate Crimes grant, you must be:

  • a §501(c)(3) organization (see more details in the RFA); AND at least one of the following:
  • a nonprofit, nonpublic school; or
  • a nonprofit day care center; or
  • a nonprofit cultural museum, which is a building or site for the exhibition or promotion of arts and culture of a particular region or people; or
  • a nonprofit residential camp, which is occupied on an overnight basis by persons under eighteen years of age; or
  • a nonprofit community center (The best definition that we’ve seen is from FEMA, “A building, including attached structures and grounds, that is established and primarily used as a gathering place for a variety of social, educational enrichment, and community service activities consistent with the nonprofit’s IRS status.” (FEMA DAP9521.1) DHSES urges applicants that consider themselves to be “community centers” to do their best to explain why they are eligible.).

For the $20 million Securing Communities Against Hate Crimes for Nonpublic Schools and Day Camps grant, you must be:

To be considered for funding, eligible organizations must:

  • Have received a Recognition of Exempt Status Determination letter from the IRS pursuant to 26 USC §501(c)(3). Alternatively, the applicant may self-certify by providing a letter affirming that the organization qualifies as a §501(c)(3) organization and is exempt from tax pursuant to 26 USC §501(a); the organization must maintain tax exempt status throughout the life of the grant. If the organization’s tax-exempt status is jeopardized or placed into question at any point during the life of the grant, the organization must notify DHSES within fifteen (15) days;

AND

  • Meet at least one of the following:
    • are a nonprofit nonpublic school; or
    • are a nonprofit day camp, which is occupied on a scheduled basis at any time between June 1st and September 15th by children under sixteen years of age for a period of less than twenty-four hours;

AND

  • Be at risk of a hate crime due to ideology, beliefs, or mission as described by the applying organization under this RFA;

AND

  • Be registered, have recently applied for registration and such application remains pending, or be exempt from registering with the NYS Attorney General’s Office, Charities Bureau;

AND

  • Be prequalified, through New York State Grants Management at https://grantsmanagement.ny.gov/securing-communities prior to application submission.

 

Kudos to Governor Andrew Cuomo on his milestone ‘NO HATE IN OUR STATE’ Conference and his inspirational message.

JCRC-NY Executive Vice President and CEO, Rabbi Michael Miller was honored to open the conference with an invocation and noted, “We [are] beset by a plague of dreadful violence, generated by senseless hatred of “the other.” And all [at this conference] are “the other.” . . . [As Governor Cuomo] has led with his raised voice . . . decrying the hatred, [so too] our voices need be raised.”

Governor Cuomo said that it was not enough for government to offer “thoughts and prayers” in the aftermath of horrible, violent hate crimes. Following his own injunction that government must not just talk, but act, he proposed as part of his FY 2021 Executive Budget an additional $25 million in security grant funding for organizations vulnerable to hate crimes. The Governor also proposed expanding eligibility for these security grants to include houses of worship.

“We are focused on protecting our institutions every day and we know that houses of worship are among the most vulnerable,” said David Pollock, JCRC-NY Associate Executive Director and Chair of the new Community Security Initiative (a joint venture of UJA-Federation and JCRC-NY). We appreciate the Governor’s genuine concern, and with the enactment of the New York State 2020-2021 budget, millions of congregants will be protected. “We are especially pleased that day camps will now be eligible to apply without matching funds (see the new Request for Application).”

NY nonpublic K-12 schools, community centers, camps and museums should click to JCRC-NY’s dedicated webpage (www.jcrcny.org/securitygrants) for more information on how to apply for grant funding to protect at-risk institutions.

National threat analysis: Iran

SUMMARY OF TERRORISM THREAT TO THE U.S. HOMELAND
This Bulletin will expire on or before January 18, 2020 at 1:00 PM EST

  • The United States designated Iran a “State Sponsor of Terrorism” in 1984 and since then, Iran has actively engaged in or directed an array of violent and deadly acts against the United States and its citizens globally. The United States designated Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) a Foreign Terrorist Organization on April 15, 2019 for its direct involvement in terrorist plotting.
  • On January 2, 2020, the United States carried out a lethal strike in Iraq killing Iranian IRGC-Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani while Soleimani was in Iraq.
  • Iranian leadership and several affiliated violent extremist organizations publicly stated they intend to retaliate against the United States.
  • At this time we have no information indicating a specific, credible threat to the Homeland. Iran and its partners, such as Hizballah, have demonstrated the intent and capability to conduct operations in the United States.
  • Previous homeland-based plots have included, among other things, scouting and planning against infrastructure targets and cyber enabled attacks against a range of U.S.-based targets.
  • Iran maintains a robust cyber program and can execute cyber attacks against the United States. Iran is capable, at a minimum, of carrying out attacks with temporary disruptive effects against critical infrastructure in the United States.
  • Iran likely views terrorist activities as an option to deter or retaliate against its perceived adversaries. In many instances, Iran has targeted United States interests through its partners such as Hizballah.
  • Homegrown Violent Extremists could capitalize on the heightened tensions to launch individual attacks.
  • An attack in the homeland may come with little or no warning.
  • The Department of Homeland Security is working closely with our federal, state, local, and private sector partners to detect and defend against threats to the Homeland, and will enhance security measures as necessary.

See the full  document here. 

Vigilance in light of the killing of Qasem Soleimani

While the analysts are still contemplating the implications of the killing of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani (see a profile here), the consensus is that Iran will try to exact revenge somewhere around the world. Targets associated with Jewish community have been in Iran’s crosshairs since the AMIA bombing in Argentina in 1994. In 2012, the incoming Executive Director of JCRC-NY and UJA-Federation’s Community Security Initiative focused on the threat to Jewish targets in the Wall Street Journal. Experts surmise that Iran and Hezbollah conducted surveillance on Israeli, Jewish, or pro-Western institutions, tourists, or high-profile individuals; or Israeli or Western government facilities and personnel. There were recent arrests of Iran-connected suspects here in New York and in Chicago last year.

While there are no known specific threats against New York or the Jewish community, we recommend that Jewish organizations should exercise heightened vigilance.

  • Access control. If an attacker can walk into a building unchallenged bad things will happen. No unauthorized person should be able to enter your building at any time. Many organizations, including synagogues, keep their doors locked until the visitor is identified and cleared. The first step is to develop a feasible access control policy (see our Sample Building Access Policies & Procedures) and to keep any door that cannot be monitored and controlled locked.
  • Vehicle restraint systems. AKA bollards. Bollards are effective, but expensive and difficult to install. What’s worse, many synagogues and schools have “No Parking” zones directly outside their doors, leaving them vulnerable to ramming or vehicular-borne explosive devices. Our suggestion is for NYC organizations to contact their local Neighborhood Coordination Officers (NCO) and ask for permission to park their own cars or school buses in the “No Parking” zones. Institutions with parking lots should consider parking “friendly” cars adjacent to your building. Find your NCO’s contact info here.
  • Assess your cybersecurity. We have received numerous reports about ransomware attacks on Jewish organizations. Iran has significant cyberwarfare capabilities. This is a good time to review your hardware, software and human factor cybersecurity protections. Check out this great primer from NJ CCIC (NJ’s cybersecurity agency) for best practices.
  • Report. Anyone who observes any suspicious behavior is encouraged to contact law enforcement immediately at 888-NYC-SAFE. If you see something, say something.
  • Connect. The first step in the process is to “Connect”. You should have an ongoing relationship with your local police precinct. They should know when your services and programs are scheduled. If you don’t know your local police officials, the JCRC can help. Click here to contact us.
  • Overview. Look at the recent DHS publication, Mass Gatherings: Security Awareness for Soft Targets and Crowded Places, can be a great template for your security planning process. Virtually every suggestion in the document can be applied to your planning process. Organizations should “Connect, Plan, Train, and Report”. Applying these four steps in advance of a possible incident or attack can help better prepare  us to proactively think about the role that our whole community plays in the safety and security of our organizations.
  • Plan. Download Potential Indicators, Common Vulnerabilities, and Protective Measures: Religious Facilities and Hometown Security Report Series: Houses of Worship for  suggestions and ideas.
  • Active Shooter response. Many of our contacts attended active shooter trainings offered in the New York area last week. If you could not attend either session or another training, click here for the JCRC-NY dedicated Active Shooter Resources webpage that includes resources from many sources. If you want to arrange a training the JCRC can help, based on available resources. Click here to contact us.
  • Security personnel. Guards at synagogues vary in quality, but generally, almost anything is better than nothing. Volunteers are good, trained volunteers are better. Uniformed guards (e.g., identifiable shirts, vests, blazers) can be deterrents. Guards who are off-duty or retired police or corrections officers bring experience, training and judgement. To be effective, any guard has to have clear instructions and procedures (see below). NYPD does have a Paid Detail Unit which provides officers to perform off-duty, uniformed security work within New York City for approximately $45/hour.  Click here for more information and contact details. For a discussion of armed vs. unarmed guards see our post Armed or unarmed security, what’s best? and a guest post here.
  • Private security. Some police departments allow private parties to hire off-duty officers in uniform for events (in NYC, contact the Paid Detail Unit). Others use other off-duty officers (hired privately or through a security firm), retired officers or hire private security guards.
  • Revisit and review your security plans and procedures.
    • Active shooters. Have a plan and train your staff and key volunteers on its implementation. See JCRC’s dedicated active shooter webpage here.
    • Bomb threats. Review your bomb threat procedures and make sure that your staffers (especially those who answer the phones) know what is expected of them. For a range of resources from top agencies, including the FBI and the DHS guidance click here.
    • Suspicious packages. Is your staff aware that they should be on the lookout for suspicious packages? For USPS guidance click here.

We will be forwarding the NYPD SHIELD analysis as soon as it becomes available. Questions? Click here to send questions, comments and suggestions.