Security Corner: What's your plan?

Take a moment to think about the different organizations where you spend time – a workplace, a school, a synagogue, somewhere you regularly volunteer… . 
Do you know if those organizations have an emergency plan in place? Do you know what it is or where to find it? Are you in a position of authority and a person people will look to for help in figuring out what to do? Are you a user of space and haven’t given it much thought?
Emergency situations of any kind are rare, but when they happen, they reveal a lot about the organization and how much thought management has given to the topic. Nearly every organization is responsible in some way for people, and (whether management realizes it or not) those people have expectations about how organizations should be prepared. Everyone knows we can’t plan for everything. However, there are some basic issues one can expect, and if you’re not ready, or you don’t think your organization is ready for those, it is time to make a plan. 
An emergency plan can be as simple as a few pages of information all the way to a bound document hundreds of pages long. Ideally, an emergency plan is clear, concise and easy to share with relevant people. 
Risk Assessment: First figure out what your risks are and where your vulnerabilities lay. There are a million different things that can go wrong, but realistically it’s easy to narrow down a list to the ten most likely emergencies you’ll have to deal with. Once you identify those, you can start to develop plans and procedures. Medical issues, lockdowns, earthquakes, suspicious visitors, acts of violence, child/parent reunification plans, persons in crisis, mass communication needs – what are the areas where your organization has gaps? What are the emergencies where you’re not sure what action your organization would take? 
Draft a Plan: Every situation has a relatively linear response that can be developed. Establish an evacuation plan. Designate multiple evacuation routes and exits for your employees and decide where you’re going to meet up outside. If you need to lock down, what are the safest rooms? How will you notify people that a lockdown is needed? Identify the steps and ensure your staff and volunteers know your plan. Engage with your staff and volunteers (and Community Security Director) for ideas. Make sure you consider functional needs – people with mobility, hearing or visual impairments might require special consideration. 
Resources and Preparation: Who in your organization will perform key functions in an emergency? Do they know what they need to do? Do you have emergency supplies (food, water, batteries, etc.)? Who will be the point of contact for communicating instructions and information internally and externally? Who has special skills that could be called upon? Inventory your emergency equipment and supplies. Ensure people know where AEDs are located and how to use them as well as other life-saving supplies. Keep updated lists of facility emergency contact numbers and keep extra copies offsite. 
Communication: Planning is just part of a complete package. Communicating the plan to staff, volunteers and users of your space is just as important. This information should be reviewed on a regular basis to ensure that staff and volunteers have the relevant training to execute your emergency plan. Consider revisiting preparation opportunities twice a year to keep safety knowledge fresh. Communicate to the users of your space that you have a plan and that your facility is prepared.
As your Director of Community Security, I can help guide you through every part of this process. SCN has several emergency preparedness templates we can work with. We can consider issues and develop protocols that will work for your facility. Some SCN resources can be found at
I continue to offer free online safety and security training. Sign up for trainings at Please share this link with other organizations or groups, both in and out of our Jewish community. 
Finally, we know that antisemitic incidents, graffiti and flyers are not always reported. Please continue to let me know when you encounter something –  report incidents at

Jessica Anderson is the Portland-area Director of Community Security. She was previously an FBI agent for 24 years. This position is funded by SCN (the official safety and security organization of the Jewish community in North America) and a local three-way partnership of the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland, Oregon Jewish Community Foundation Endowment Fund and multiple Jewish organizations in the region.


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