Our Shul has been working on improving our security for over 5 years and I wanted to share some of what we’ve learned. There are three aspects to Shabbos Shul Security: physical plant enhancement, restricting entry and active shooter response planning.
The first step is to keep intruders out of the building by strengthening your physical plant. This includes enhancing your outer doors, inner doors, locks, windows, cameras, gates and walls. There are a lot of things you can do here, but you should consider investing in better locks as your first purchase.
The second step is preventing entry to your Shul when services are in session. Keeping your shul doors locked with a push button lock is a good idea. You should also make every effory to hire an armed guard, which will cost you about $200 for 4 hours every Shabbos morning in the NY area. In addition to an armed guard, Shul members will need to assist in identifying who will be permitted to enter.
The third step is to have a plan in place if an active shooter makes his way into your building. The government recommended plan is composed of running, hiding or fighting as an absolute last resort. Each shul needs to map out a plan primarily based on your physical layout.
Funding for this endeavor will be provided by the funders of the Shul, the members or the government. Government grants are available and our Shul and others in our neighborhood have received grants of $50,000 and $100,000. The newest grants can be spent on plant improvements, armed guards and training. You will probably need to spend $1,000 to $1,500 to hire someone to help you procure the grant. You will also need to spend $1,000 to $1,500 on a Security Risk Assessment.
The three groups to help you are private security firms, the police and community advisory groups. The private security firms provide the best and most comprehensive guidance, but they cost money. The police will give you free advice, seminars, and walk throughs, but their availability is limited. The community advisory groups are most focused on active shooter planning and their availability is limited. Each group has a specific perspective from which they view security and you should keep that in mind when you listen to them.
We must do our hishtadlus, but we should not forget to pray and put our ultimate trust in Hashem.