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An ADL expert offers tips on security for Jewish organizations

December 23, 2009 Leave a comment

By Ted Parker

SAN DIEGO–This article suggests several measures Jewish institutions can take to improve their security.  For additional information go to the Security Awareness page of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) website at www.adl.org and read the paper entitled Protecting Your Jewish Institution: Security Strategies for Today’s Dangerous World.

Security Planning

Security planning begins with a vulnerability assessment that examines threats and develops measures to counter them.  The resulting plan should focus on the most likely threats that can cause the most damage.  It should also deal with unlikely threats that can be countered simply and inexpensively.  Others like kidnappers, armed intruders, and shooters will be difficult and costly to counter but must also be considered these days.

The plan should include physical crime prevention measures, duties of the institution staff and its security guards, and ways institution members and neighbors can help.  Physical measures include lighting, fencing, gates, locks, alarms, cameras, barriers, etc. 

Staff and guard duties include patrolling the property, observing people and activities on and near the property, controlling access by visitors and delivery/service people, training the staff in emergency procedures and responses to various threats, conducting inspections and drills, reporting crimes and suspicious persons and activities, keeping detailed records of crimes and damage to the property, monitoring cameras, handling mail and packages, keeping in touch with local law enforcement agencies, etc.

Institution members and neighbors can help by reporting suspicious activities and providing good descriptions of the people and vehicles involved.
 

Security Measures

 Fences, Walls, and Gates
 
Well-built walls, fences, and gates are the first line of defense against criminals.  Unless privacy and noise reduction are needed, open ornamental metal or chain link fences are preferred over solid walls because they do not block visibility into and out of the facility or provide hiding places. 

Also, they are less susceptible to graffiti and more difficult to climb.  Fences, walls, and gates should be at least 6 feet high.  Locks on gates should be shielded so a person cannot open them by reaching in with a hand, wire, or other device.  And gates should be alarmed to warn office personal when they are being opened or left open.

Daily Security Checks

The first staff member on the grounds in the morning should conduct a walk-around to check for any suspicious objects, overnight vandalism, vehicles in the parking lot, evidence of trespassing or tampering with locks, etc.  Law enforcement should be called immediately if any suspicious objects or vehicles are found.  Such objects should not be touched or moved.  Other staff members should check their work areas at the beginning and end of each day to make sure that everything is in its proper place and that nothing has been moved or left out.

The last staff member on the grounds in the evening should conduct a walk-around to make sure that the alarms are set and all doors and gates are locked.  A notice should be placed on any vehicle left in the parking lot stating that overnight parking is prohibited and vehicles in the lot at closing time may be towed.

Facility Access Control
 
Doors can be unlocked when services, classes, and special events are being held and a security person is present to screen people entering the facility.  At other times doors should be locked and staff members given access cards to open them.  Cards are better than keys or codes because they cannot be reproduced and given to unauthorized persons, a record can be kept of their use, their use can be limited to certain gates and doors in the facility, and they can be invalidated when reported lost or stolen, or when the staff member leaves. 

A telephone-entry system and video camera should be installed at the front door to enable others to be admitted.  Signs outside the building should direct people to this door.  A receptionist or other staff member should speak to and observe them before allowing them to enter the building to have their identity verified and be logged in and given a visitor pass to be worn in the facility.

Measures are also needed at all doors to the outside to prevent them from being propped open for reentry or unauthorized entry, but still open quickly from the inside in an emergency.  A control panel should be installed in the main office to show the status of these doors, as well as the status of all interior doors to rooms or areas that are normally kept locked.

Staff ID Badges

Photo ID badges should be issued to all staff members to be worn everywhere in the facility.  They can also be designed for use in card readers to provide access to the building and locked work areas in it.

Landscaping
 
Tree canopies should be maintained at least 8 feet above the ground.  Bushes should be trimmed to less than 3 feet except where privacy or environmental noise mitigation is a primary concern, or where higher plants would not block any views or light from fixtures, or provide hiding places.  Trees should be trimmed so they do not block any light from fixtures or camera coverage.

Bushes along building walls should be trimmed and located far enough from the walls so that a person walking around the building can see that nothing is hidden next to the building.

Parking Lots

Parking lots should be well lighted, fenced, and have gates or chains on each entrance so the lot can be closed when the facility is closed.  The entrances may be kept open during the day at low terrorist threat levels.  However, when services and other events that attract large crowds are held only one entrance should be open and a security person posted there to screen vehicles entering the lot.

Signs

Signs should be posted to prohibit trespassing, loitering, and public parking.  If signs stating that security or surveillance cameras are installed are posted, and the cameras are not monitored all the time, the sign should also include that caveat. 

This is important in keeping people from having a false sense of security and expecting help in the event they are attacked or otherwise need assistance.

And to provide the option of towing vehicles, signs meeting all the requirements of California Vehicle Code Sec. 22658(a) must be posted at all entrances to the property.

 Letter of Agency
 
A Letter of Agency or its equivalent should be filed with the local law enforcement agency to authorize officers to act as the institution’s agent and enter its property to investigate suspicious activities and arrest people who are trespassing or committing a crime on or about the property when the facility is closed.

Cameras

In addition to providing a record of activities for evidence purposes, cameras with video analytics or intelligent video software can be used to detect unusual or suspicious activity as it is occurring.  Alarm conditions can be set by time of day and day of the week to detect motion in and out of an area, unattended packages, illegal parking, trespassing, loitering, etc.  The software can alert a staff member at the facility or a person at a remote location that a condition has occurred.  The monitors would then be viewed and appropriate actions taken.

Trash Dumpsters
 
Outside refuse and recyclable material containers and storage areas should be locked when the containers in them are not being filled or emptied.

 Building Hardening

Only a few things can be done to limit bomb damage to existing buildings, especially if a bomb explodes in or near the building.  Protective films can be applied to windows to reduce injuries from flying glass fragments or drapes can be installed to catch these fragments.  These films can also prevent firebombs from being thrown into the building. 

Bollards or planter boxes can be installed at building entrances to prevent a vehicle from intentionally or accidentally crashing into your facility.  And blast-resistant walls can be installed between the building and the adjoining streets and the parking lot.

 Many things can be done to limit fire damage.  In addition to having smoke alarms and sprinklers, all potential fire hazards should be removed from the property, i.e., trash, lawn clippings, debris, gasoline, flammable chemicals, etc.  Carpeting and mats outside of doors should be removed as they can absorb fuel and act as wicks.  The local fire department should be consulted on these and other measures.

Dealing with Vandalism
 

Graffiti-resistant paint or anti-graffiti coatings should be used on the sides of the building and any other design features that could be vandalized.  Additional protection can be obtained by planting vines, bushes, etc. along walls and the sides of the buildings.  They cover areas that might otherwise be vandalized.  However, the landscaping should not be so dense that it provides a hiding place for a person or bomb next to a building. 

The outside of the buildings should be well lighted at night, especially areas that might be vandalized.  And cameras could be installed to cover these areas.

Outside works of art should be designed to be resistant to vandalism and easy to repair if it is damaged.  Stained glass windows should be shielded by a protective film that prevents them from being broken by thrown rocks, covered by graffiti, etc.

Secure Utilities

 Because lights and other security systems work on electrical power measures need to be taken to prevent disruption of external power or provide internal backup power.  At a minimum, external circuit breakers should be installed in a sturdy box that is locked with a shielded padlock.

The telephone line that sends the alarm signal to the alarm company should also be hardened so it cannot be cut, or if it is cut the system should automatically generate an alarm at the alarm company.  If the telephone line is contained in a box on the outside of the building this box should be locked with a shielded padlock.

 
Terrorism Preparedness and Prevention

Be vigilant and aware of your surroundings and report anything that doesn’t fit in or seems out of the ordinary.  Be aware yet fair.  Avoid stereotyping and profiling.  Some examples of persons, activities, vehicles, etc. that should be considered suspicious and reported are listed in the Crime Prevention and Education section of the SDPD website at www.sandiego.gov/police under Community Resources and Responsibilities.  Some are clearly emergencies.  They should be reported immediately by calling 911.  Others should be reported on the local law enforcement’s non-emergency number.  These phone numbers vary by jurisdiction.

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Parker is a member of the San Diego Regional ADL’s  Inter-Agency Security and Safety Committee