Jewish Synagogue Security Assessments & Active Shooter Training is a Necessity

The terribly disturbing hostage incident in Texas is yet another wake up call for every Jewish synagogue, JCC, Jewish school, and organization to create and/or update their security and emergency plans and procedures. Let’s be very clear, this is not about being afraid. This is about being smart and being prepared. That is why if you are a synagogue member, send your children to a Jewish school, attend organized Jewish events, regularly visit a JCC, or associate with a Jewish Federation it is time to demand your leadership answer the following questions:

1. Has a security assessment been recently conducted that included things like policies/procedures/emergency plans and was more than just physical assessment? (cameras, gates, alarms, fences, etc)

2. Do they have a usable security, safety, and emergency plan?

3. Are their plans trained, tested, and drilled against perceived threats?

4. Is workplace violence prevention and active shooter response training taught and practiced on-site?

If the answer to any of these questions is unsatisfactory, then you need to push your leadership to address the issues immediately. Jews know antisemitism exists and Jews know that the faith, religion, culture, and country have historically been targeted over the last 2,000 years. Just as Israel has the “iron dome,” every Jewish institution must take every measure possible to prepare and protect itself from those who wish Jews harm. At AEGIS we understand the challenges when it comes to protecting Jewish life in America and we are here to help with the following recommendations.

Organizations like DHS, CISA, FBI, local law enforcement, SCN, the ADL, CSI and others provide components of a assessments, tools and resources to increase resiliency, and expertise in providing training, however it can be a cumbersome process to obtain assistance and the lead time could be weeks, months, or even years to achieve a goal. That’s where expert security consultants like AEGIS bridge the gap.

First and foremost, all of the Jewish organizations and buildings mentioned above should have a security professional conduct a security vulnerability and risk assessment. When we do these at AEGIS they are comprehensive and go far beyond making sure you have adequate protection at points of ingress and egress, cameras, and alarms. That’s because security and safety is a lot more than just the physical infrastructure.

We look at every detail from where each of your security cameras is pointed to the effectiveness of your emergency and evacuation plans. Our security professionals evaluate when and where threats are most likely to present themselves. They use years of security experience to anticipate how a criminal would go about infiltrating your building. We find the weaknesses and help you to understand and address them through physical enhancements and policy/procedure improvements. You can not fix problems if you don’t know they exist and while ignorance may be bliss, it is not safe.

Next, we encourage all congregations and Jewish organizations to host at least one safety education night. If you already have a professionally developed emergency plan then this is a great night to make sure everyone has the knowledge to execute that procedure. If you don’t have these procedures yet, then these education nights can be a chance to bring in a professional to teach your congregation how to respond to different emergency situations. 

This is important for two main reasons. The first being that at AEGIS, we stress the value of education to all of our clients regardless of who or what they are trying to protect. The second is, we understand that many synagogues have an extremely low staff to congregant ratio. Because of this, having all employees trained in the emergency procedures may not be enough to prevent, protect, and respond in an active shooter or workplace violence situation.

The last piece of advice we recommend is for those groups which do have plans, procedures, and policies in place. That advice is to hire a professional to conduct what we call a “pen test.” This is a real-life stress test which will assess the effectiveness of the plans, procedures, and security infrastructure you have in place. This is a must. Having a plan is great, but making sure that plan can withstand real life scenarios creates better preparedness and hones responsiveness.

Contact AEGIS today for more information.