Rosh Chodesh Elul includes clarion calls indicating that the High Holidays are coming soon. So, now is a good time to check out a recent presentation on synagogue security or to take a deeper dive into the library of documents available on the JCRC-NY Security Resources pages. Here are some relevant selections:
High Holiday Security and Emergency Preparedness Planning Library
- High Holidays: Are you ready to get out if you have to?
- JCRC-NY High Holiday Security Thinkplate
- Access control considerations during High Holiday services (PDF)
- Houses of Worship and the High Holidays
- Planning for the Unexpected – High Holiday Edition 2010 (PDF)
- Are you prepared? 5 steps to make your facility safer and more secure
- Sample Building Access Policies & Procedures (PDF)
- Bomb Threat Guidance resources. See also Hoax threats can be scary, too, To evacuate or not to evacuate? That is the question., DHS’ Introduction to Bomb Threat Management, Manhattan bomb threat: lessons learned, Bomb threat training video.
- Active Shooter Resources Page (DHS, FBI and NYPD)
- Cybersecurity Resources Page
- US Postal Inspection Service Guide to Mail Center Security (PDF)
Vulnerability, Risk and Safety Assessments and Planning
- FEMA: Reference Manual to Mitigate Potential Terrorist Attacks Against Buildings
- FEMA, Emergency Operations Planning
- Potential Indicators, Common Vulnerabilities, and Protective Measures: Religious Facilities (Updated)
- Hometown Security Report Series: Houses of Worship
- K-12 School Security: A Guide for Preventing and Protecting against Gun Violence (2nd ed., 2018) provides preventive and protective measures to address the threat of gun violence in schools. The Guide is delivered in two parts: the first portion is a PDF with general security best practices and considerations in narrative format; while the second portion is a Microsoft Excel-based security survey. Together, these documents outline action-oriented security practices and options for consideration based on the results of the individual school’s responses to the survey. While the primary audience for the Guide is the K-12 community, institutions of higher education or pre-K schools may also benefit from the information presented.
- NYPD: Engineering Security: Protective Design for High Risk Buildings
- OSHA: Evacuation Plans and Procedures eTool. This expert system will help you to create a basic Emergency Action Plan. This basic plan likely will be adequate for needs of many small and medium-sized entities. Most small and medium-sized entities can create basic plans using this system in 10 to 15 minutes. Larger, more complex organizations will require more work.
- Practical Information on Crisis Planning: A Guide for Schools and Communities. U.S. Department of Education, Office of Drug Free and Safe Schools. Taking action now can save lives, prevent injury, and minimize property damage in the moments of a crisis. The importance of reviewing and revising school and district plans cannot be underscored enough, and Practical Information on Crisis Planning: A Guide for Schools and Communities is designed to help you navigate this process. The Guide is intended to give schools, districts, and communities the critical concepts and components of good crisis planning, stimulate thinking about the crisis preparedness process, and provide examples of promising practices.
- Emergency Preparedness Planning Guide for Childcare Centers. From the Illinois Emergency Medical Services for Children (a collaborative program between the Illinois Department of Public Health and Loyola University Chicago). Lots of ideas to keep toddlers safe.
- Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools (REMS) Technical Assistance Center, U.S. Department of Education
- REMS: Conducting a Safety Audit
- California STAS: Protective Measures for Enhanced Facilities Security
- New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness Critical Infrastructure Protection Bureau: Facility Self-Assessment Tool (updated) and other tools here.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently posted new resources for soft targets (virtually all nonprofits are considered soft targets) and crowded places. These are clear and concise (two page) action guides:
- Active Shooter Attacks: Security Awareness for Soft Targets and Crowded Places. Sections on:
- potential indicators,
- what should people do in case of an active shooter attack,
- protective measures, and
- additional resources.
- Vehicle Ramming: Security Awareness for Soft Targets and Crowded Places. Sections on:
- potential indicators,
- what should people do in case of a vehicle ramming attack,
- mitigation strategies and protective measures, and
- additional resources.
- Mass Gatherings: Take Charge of Your Personal Safety. Sections on:
- be prepared,
- don’t hesitate, take action,
- assist and react, and
- additional resources.
All of these guides offer excellent suggestions and can be used for training purposes. We urge you to take a look and to put them to good use.
As of now, the analysts are saying that there are no known, specific threats to New York or the Jewish community.
Vehicle ramming is becoming more common. There have been recent several incidents, both domestic and overseas. In contrast to attacks against law enforcement, the victims in these incidents appeared to have been targeted indiscriminately by the perpetrators, as the sites likely were chosen with the intention to cause mass casualties and generate media attention, rather than target a specific group.
This incident should serve as a reminder that, out of an abundance of caution, every facility should review their security procedures and heighten their vigilance. A visible change in access control procedures can be reassuring to building users.
Given the relative simplicity of ramming, facility managers should evaluate whether bollards, hardened planters and other physical protection measures should be considered.
Also consider whether staff vehicles parked adjacent to your facility can be used as an interim measure to protect your building and your users.
Recommendations (HT to Paul DeMatteis)
- Your staff should be briefed on basic suspicious behavior and made aware that they are responsible for immediately reporting suspicious activity or persons.
- If security guards are utilized, they should be briefed concerning your enhanced expectations, and field supervision should make additional visits to your location to ensure compliance.
- Interior and exterior security inspections (by security, maintenance staff, trained volunteers, executive staff, etc.) should be conducted several times a day.
- During high volume arrival or departure times, additional security should be utilized.
- All security policies and procedures should be reviewed and strictly followed.
- All security equipment should be checked for fitness.
- To identify suspicious activity, where available, camera system recording (day and night) should be reviewed daily.
- Continue to maintain a close relationship with local law enforcement.
- Create a “culture of security” in your organization. Security is everybody’s business. Everyone should know, “If you see something, say something.”
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.