Zalman Myer-Smith is the Executive Director of the Florida-based volunteer Community Security Organization (CSO) liaising, training, and working with law enforcement agencies and serving Jewish community synagogues, schools, and centers. He is also the Director of Security for Chabad of Florida. He sent this article to COLlive.com following the Pittsburgh massacre:
In the aftermath of one of the worst shootings in an American synagogue, our hearts and prayers go out to the Pittsburgh Jewish community. Our phones have been ringing off the hook asking for advice, training, and guidance to ensure this does not happen again.
The CSO consults and trains shuls, schools, and community centers to implement cost-effective and low budget practical procedures.
Having protocols in place is great, but having staff and students to drill those protocols is critical. We have seen countless times when a site gets a security overall, it is key that everyone is involved and has a critical role to play in community security. The NYPD adage of “See Something, Say Something” must now become “See Something, Do Something.”
But we need to be proactive, vs reactive. As one of our advisors mentioned to me, “one does not become a black belt in 3 days”. Security is an organic process. However, in less than 36 hrs you can have Israeli style screening and protocols in place, which is a great place to start. We start with Deter, Detect, Delay and Defend which is directly from the Department of Homeland Security protocols.
For those states where firearms are legal, I strongly recommend basic security skills training before reliance on weaponry. It’s all integrated.
For obvious reasons, we can’t talk tactics or operational security matters here, but there are some practical steps you can take to enhance the safety and security of your location and community.
Here are the four fundamentals of security according to the Department of Homeland Security and other professional security agencies are Deter, Detect, Delay & Defend.
Imagine someone is driving down your street and is looking to break into a house. In most cases, they will look at your house and that of your neighbors. Which is the easiest home to break into? Criminals and terrorists have one method in common; 95% of the time they will do surveillance or homework before a crime to ensure the best possible outcome for them. Do you have signs saying beware of the dog, or that you have an alarm system or cameras? Is there poor lighting, or shrubbery they can hide in? If I’m a prospective burglar, how easy is it to get in and out of your house undetected? The perception of an easy breach by a criminal or terrorist is directly based on the systems you have. Like anything in life, if it appears to be too much effort to break in, they will usually go on to the next site or victim.
My Practical Tip: Walk around the outside of your home and check how accessible windows and doors are. Start thinking like a burglar. Make it as difficult as possible for someone to break in. This does not cost a lot of money.
Get a Ring camera (or similar) doorbell system, have LED floodlights at your home during the week and be aware of your surroundings. Know what’s normal and what is abnormal. It’s called a baseline. When you walk into your house, you instinctively know what is normal. If, G-d forbid, someone has been in your house, you can sense and see that something is wrong or off. You use that baseline to determine if something is wrong in your Chabad House or school as well. Additionally, your kids, spouse and staff at shul or in school should be trained observers. They should know what is normal and who to report to if they see anything abnormal. The “See Something, Say Something” is not a cliché and has saved many lives. Detecting a problematic person, package or vehicle before it can do harm is only possible if it’s reported. And don’t let your smartphone be a distraction in keeping you aware of your surroundings.
My Practical Tip: Train and use potential volunteers. They are already part of your existing shul, school or community, and they have skin in the game. Have them walk around outside to see problems and let them be seen looking. Many a shliach has thanked me for getting shul members to come to shul on a more consistent basis to be a part of the security team. It gets them involved on a practical level and they feel a part of something.
We do this with barriers and people. Whether it’s doors, fences, barricades or lockdown devices. We want to delay the progress of a terrorist or criminal while speeding up the response of security staff or law enforcement. How can we slow down their progress?
My Practical Tip: Use barricade devices, close doors, limit access to one or two points. Put up signage. Use member vehicles to create barricades. How can I make life harder for someone who wants to do harm to my property, shul or members?
It’s sad to think, but Florida has many people who carry firearms. I teach a class and in theory, you can get a concealed-weapons permit after only three hours of training. I love when a Rabbi or shliach comes to me to ask what to do about a member of the “security team” who is carrying at the kiddush club saying l’chaim. The availability and access to firearms will vary from state to state. This is one area I’d rather expand on privately based on specific circumstances. Suffice it to say that it takes quite a bit of training to get the confidence and skills to respond appropriately and legally. If someone in your shul plans to carry a weapon, it should be done properly and not haphazardly. The legal and physical exposure is too great to wing it. Rely on professional and real-world training.
My Practical Tip: Depending on your state and its laws regarding weapons, try to have an armed responder (private security or off-duty police officer) rather than a private citizen. Additionally, there are practical ways to respond to an active shooter situation. Please contact www.thecso.org for information specific to your unique location.
As much as I enjoy my work, and have done for over 20 years, I look forward to the day when those seeking to hurt the Jewish people will no longer be able to do so, with the speedy arrival of the ultimate First Responder, Moshiach.