Update on Beth El Security Protocols

February 18, 2022 in News and Updates

While Beth El already has a strong security culture , the recent hostage situation at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas prompted us to do a full review of our protocols. We conducted an updated security survey in partnership with a private security contractor, a crisis management expert and former Israeli Defense Forces officer. They reaffirmed that Beth El’s security posture is strong and a constant presence in our building, programming, and planning as we work to maintain an open, welcoming atmosphere that also keeps our community safe. A few highlights:

Beth El’s existing security infrastructure and approach is both effective and ingrained in our culture. We already have modern access controls and surveillance systems, as well as physical barriers protecting the building. Our policies and procedures are being further documented and scheduled for regular review, with separate emergency protocols for the preschool given its proximity to the front of the building from the rest of the synagogue, in addition to an emergency communications plan. We have visible, subtle, and behind the scenes security programs that protect our congregants, clergy, staff, and guests. In addition, we will continue to maintain a second guard in addition to the MCPD officer to provide greater coverage, including an officer that can frequently be on outside patrol.

Beth El’s security committee meets regularly and takes a “security by design” approach to both day-to-day operations and broader initiatives. Security is enhanced through programs such as the Shabbat morning greeter program and is a strategic part of planning for large gatherings such as the High Holidays and for physical building changes such as the new playground and other expansion and construction.

Beth El was recently awarded a Montgomery County Nonprofit Security Grant to be utilized for security staffing, training, drills and assessments. This grant was specifically available to Montgomery County “nonprofit organizations and religious facilities experiencing threats or hate crimes or at significant risk of being targets of a hate crime as representatives of frequently targeted groups.” This is separate from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)/FEMA grant Beth El was awarded in 2020 which was specific for investments in infrastructure.

Beth El has a culture of security awareness which is the foundation of an effective security program. The primary recommendations from the recent security audit were to:

  • Enhance communications
  • Standardize and document processes
  • Identify opportunities for continued training of staff, clergy, and congregants
  • Test our plans and protocols to identify any requirement for additional training or tweaking

While Beth El’s security posture is strong, it is not static. We will continue to review and update our approach, protocols, and training to adjust to evolving concerns and conditions. If you have any questions, please contact the chair of the security committee, Mike Gips.