Security/Emergency Information

Devastating attack on the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh

Our hearts and prayers go out for the dead, wounded and survivors — all innocent victims of a blatantly anti-Semitic attack at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. We are deeply grateful to the first responders who ran towards the bullets and prevented the carnage from getting any worse. The messages  of solidarity, hope and revulsion to anti-Semitism offered by many public officials and community leaders reassure us of the basic goodness of our nation. Still, recent events reinforce our ongoing concern that the hatred and violence borne by homegrown violent extremists can stem from many sources and motivations. When any group or faith is at risk, we are all at risk.

In the immediate aftermath of the shooting, the NYPD deployed heavy weapons teams, including the officers from the Critical Response Command and the Strategic Response Team, to houses of worship across the City to supplement the patrol cars in every command making additional visits to reassure congregants. We have been in touch with the NYPD, the DHS and the FBI. Currently, there is no nexus to New York or any credible, direct threat to New York or the broader Jewish community. However, the confluence of mail bombs and the Tree of Life attack could be a catalyst for other copycat attacks.

According to NYPD SHIELD, “active shooters often choose to target religious locations/houses of worship during peak times and may make use of a wide range of tactics and weapons in attacks including, but not limited to, improvised explosive devices, assault rifles, improvised incendiary devices, and knives. Religious locations/houses of worship must take into account a diversity of tactics in preparing plans and response scenarios for potential crises and routinely familiarize all staff and students with emergency-specific lock down, shelter-in-place, and evacuation procedures.”

Action steps

  • Report. Anyone who observes any suspicious behavior is encouraged to contact law enforcement immediately at 888-NYC-SAFE. If you see something, say something.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Plan.
  • 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.
  • 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. 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.
  • 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.
Quick tips: What should your guard(s) be doing?
no-potted-plantGuards should not be merely uniformed potted plants adorning your lobby. Rather, they should be an important and active component of your overall security plan.If you have a single guard, his/her logical priority is access control (see our suggestions on how to develop an access control policy here). At the same time, don’t lose sight of other important functions, including:

  • Vigilance. While they are on duty they can observe what is going on outside your building and monitor CCTV, possibly leading to the early detection of hostile surveillance or imminent hostile acts. See our suggestions for detecting hostile surveillance here.
  • Walk-arounds. Remember the Chelsea bombs? They were hidden in a trash container and a suitcase. If someone planted a device in your garbage can would anyone find it? One best practice is to have your guard tour your facility, inside and out, looking for something that “Just doesn’t look right”.
  • Notifications.Your guard should be given defined protocol and procedures if something “Just doesn’t look right” : who to notify (e.g., senior staff, general alarm), how to act and what else to do.
  • Crisis management. A well trained guard should be able to follow the protocols and procedures defined by you. They should be able to support responses such as bomb threats, evacuations and/or sheltering-in-place.

The security management industry calls instructions for guards, “post orders” which clearly outline the duties, responsibilities, and expectations of security guards. For example, your post orders should clearly set forth your access control policies and define the areas of your property that should be included in a walk-around and their time and frequency (e.g., upon arrival and upon returning from lunch).

 

 

National Preparedness Month couldn’t be more relevant

Forecasters predict that Hurricane Florence will aim its “potential for unbelievable damage” at the Carolinas and Virginia and will not have a significant impact on the New York area.

Beware! It’s peak hurricane season and this is not a time for complacency. We may see fewer hurricanes this year, but scientists conclude that hurricanes are getting wetter and slower.

Register for DHS Active Shooter Workshops

Posted on August 17, 2018

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is offering Active Shooter Preparedness Workshops in the New York area on October 16 (NYC) and October 19 (White Plains). For additional information and a schedule of other sites and dates  contact ASWorkshop@hq.dhs.gov.

Participants will learn how to mitigate the impacts of an active shooter incident and how to develop an initial organizational emergency action plan focused on such incidents.

Topics include:

  • Developing an Emergency Action Plan with guidance from expert instructors;
  • Identifying strengths, weaknesses, and gaps in physical security and planning considerations via break-out sessions;
  • Learning how to prevent active shooter incidents by recognizing behavioral indicators on the pathway to violence;
  • Understanding the history of significant active shooter incidents through survivor stories and expert perspectives;
  • Developing communication and incident plans for employees;
  • Building relationships with local first responders;
  • Coordinating with first responders before, during, and after an incident; and
  • Integrating public affairs into incident management.

Follow the links to see more information and to register for the New York City event on October 16, 2018 and for the White Plains event on October 18, 2018. Registration is required and seating is limited.

Click here for the JCRC-NY dedicated Active Shooter Resources webpage that includes resources from many sources.

High Holidays planning: Using the “Mass Gatherings” template

Posted on August 15, 2018

A 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 High Holiday security planning process, as well as other special events.

Your services are usually associated with larger than normal crowds and could be an attractive target for terrorism and other crimes. By connecting with local authorities, developing plans to identify issues and support incident response, training staff and volunteers, and reporting concerns to emergency authorities, many incidents may be mitigated or avoided.

Organizations should “Connect, Plan, Train, and Report”. Applying these four steps in advance of an incident or attack can help better prepare our institutions and and their employees to proactively think about the role they play in the safety and security of their businesses and communities.

Download the document here and our library of resources here.

May 5779 be a year of peace and security; what you can do to help

Posted on August 09, 2018

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

Topical guidance

Vulnerability, Risk and Safety Assessments and Planning