A recent federal bulletin urged state and local law enforcement to be on high alert ahead of 9/11 anniversary. It explained that that terrorists – specifically those aligned with
ISIS – “may be inspired or directed to conduct attacks against events associated with 9/11 memorial commemorations or other mass gathering targets timed to this date.” The report notes the symbolism associated with the somber anniversary as a motivating factor for a potential terrorist attack.
While the FBI reports that it is “unaware of any specific, credible information” of a plot against the U.S. homeland (or against Jewish communal targets), Daesh (aka “ISIS”) and Al Qaeda propaganda have repeatedly tried to inspire attacks by individuals — such as the ones in Paris, Nice, Istanbul and Orlando — using firearms, edged weapons, improvised explosive devices (IEDs), and commercial vehicles. Federal analysts note that there is an “ongoing heightened threat environment.”
Heightened security measures should be in place through 9/11 and through the Jewish holiday season (Remember: the potential attacker in Aventura, FL was aware of the Jewish calender and planned to strike on a Jewish holiday in order to maximize the impact of his attack). Many of the terrorists responsible for recent incidents engaged in “pre-operational surveillance”, i.e., they checked out the site while planning their attack. Consider the following elements of heightened vigilance:
- Increase visible security measures. Someone planning an attack may look at your facility, conclude that it is defended and decide to go elsewhere. Several recent incidents also underscore that the presence of armed security and law enforcement personnel and the placement of security checkpoints do not guarantee that an attack will be averted or interupted. Nevertheless, their presence can enable the timely discovery and quick resolution of potential threats and reduce the lethality of terrorist attacks.
- Review your policies and procedures. How else can you send a signal to outsiders that your facility is a tough target? For example, does your staff do regular inspections of your facility looking for something that, “Just doesn’t look right?” If not, start now. If they do, should you increase the frequency. Review JCRC’s Sample Access Policies and Procedures to identify additional steps.
- Test your systems. OK, you’ve identified systems to screen your mail, respond to bomb threats and suspicious objects and you have an active shooters plan. The key question is: “Will they work in reality?” Do your panic buttons function? Test them (after you first alert the alarm company). Have you had tabletop exercises and drills covering multiple hazards? How can you make sure that your entire staff and constituencies are on their collective toes?
- Check in with your local police. For most Jewish organizations, September is the start of a new program year. Reach out to your local police. Offer 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.
- If you see something, say something. Think how to build a culture of security, because security is everbody’s business. If any of your staff, students, volunteers, congregants or clients sees or hears something suspicious they should feel comfortable to report it to the appropriate person in your facility and the information should be passed on to the police. In NYC the number is 1-888-NYC-SAFE. Elsewhere in New York State the number is 1-866-SAFE-NYS. Every tip is investigated.