Lockdown Lowdown: Jewish leaders put prevention and survival plans into action

September 30, 2019

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With active mass shootings and anti-Semitism on the rise, local Jewish leaders can’t be too pro-active. Security and risk assessment actions taken by various synagogues and the Reba and Sam Sandler Family Campus reflect the reality that heightened fear is the new normal, and tightened security is critical for keeping the community safe.

Jason Capossere is security and safety manager at the Sandler Family Campus. “To date we have obtained over $1,000,000 in Homeland Security and local grants in order to increase security measures,” says Capossere. “We actively partner with local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies and have an amazing working relationship.”

The Sandler Campus offers training several times a year on various topics including active shooters, lockdowns, etc. “Homeland Security has reviewed our procedures and equipment,” says Capossere. “They ranked us number 1 among 85 similar facilities for safety.”

Capossere’s message for staff and members of the community: “If you see something, say something. Anything that seems out of the ordinary, suspicious, or makes you feel uncomfortable, just let us know. Security or law enforcement will decide whether or not it rises to the level that requires more attention. It should be reported immediately without delay.”

Joe Bouchard is a private consultant and former Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness professional whose current clients include three synagogues, three Christian churches, and a private school, among others.

When working with targeted organizations such as temples and synagogues, Bouchard draws from several core principles: Speed is Life, Threat warning; Physical Security and Access Control; Situational Awareness and Threat Recognition; Security in Depth; Large Event Preparation; and Medical & Security Training.

Capossere and Bouchard both stress the extreme importance of immediate action without delay. “Be alert for suspicious behavior and report it immediately,” says Bouchard.

“The same applies to suspicious unattended packages, near or inside the building. Don’t hesitate because you’re not sure if what you see is a threat. Report it and let the professionals determine if there is a threat.”

Glenn Saucier is facility director for the Sandler Family Campus. Surveillance and immediate response top his list. “Our surveillance is extreme,” says Saucier. “And if people will only take one thing from this, it’s how important it is to call us immediately, not a week later or even the next day. Making the call right away, even if you’re unsure of what you saw, is always the best call.”

Minette Cooper, a past Ohef Sholom Temple president, recruited Bouchard because of his background in Homeland Security.

“I agreed to come out of retirement to help,” says Bouchard. “I am still assisting Ohef Sholom and have gained seven other non-profit clients by word of mouth. Bouchard’s services include risk assessments, drafting security and all hazard’ emergency preparedness plans, conducting training, and assisting with Nonprofit Security Grant Program applications and grant management.

Living in a digital age, community vigilance connects to digital devices. “Many people overlook the social media aspect,” says Capossere. “Almost every agency or synagogue is on social media, many live stream services or events. Do you know who is watching those events? You have to be aware of this. Who is liking or following your pages, and do they really need to be? The best defense against an incident in our community is simple common sense and situational awareness. Something we all have to be aware of and contribute to.”

Lisa Richmon

Letter to the Editor