A letter from HSA to all Faith Based Communities includes many resources to assist houses of worship with their security continuum. The helpful tools are being shared just days after an antisemitic gunman held four worshipers hostage for 10 hours at the Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas. We reproduce the letter in full for our readers.
A Message from the California’s Homeland Security Advisor to California’s Faith Communities
In light of this last weekend’s horrific hostage incident that took place at Congregation Beth Israel Synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, I am reaching out to offer support to all of California’s faith communities who are concerned or have been impacted by this event, and to convey my unwavering resolve to reduce the threat of targeted violence within our communities.
Although Cal OES is unaware of any specific, credible threats to California’s faith-based communities at this time, I encourage our faith leaders to exercise particular vigilance by increasing your overall situational awareness and by maintaining close contact with your respective local law enforcement entities, so that they may become aware of any emerging threat quickly and to take appropriate actions.
In the meantime, the following items below are some practical steps that can be taken to increase security posture and to mitigate the risk of targeted violence. As well, there is information to increase awareness of some of the resources available to help protect our faith communities.
Some steps Faith-Based Leaders can take in the near term:
Establish a Safety and Security Program within your congregation if you have not already done so.
If not yet done so, conduct a threat and vulnerability assessment.
Review existing security and emergency plans and procedures and ensure that they are up to date, implemented, and tested.
Review and update your cybersecurity posture/capabilities. Review and evaluate what content and information you have online. Minimize personal information or specifics about facility floor plans. Consider a member only section or the establishment of an intranet for internal communication.
Train security staff and congregation leadership on how to deal with scenarios involving active shooter, hostage situations, harassment and other types of violent encounters or threats.
Review communications plans and capabilities for issuing alerts or warnings and communicating with each other during an emergency.
Assess your physical and virtual security systems to ensure that they are robust and meet the needs of your facility and congregation.
Ensure that security personnel can access cameras and network data remotely to be able to share with law enforcement should an incident occur. (This includes the ability to remotely access infrastructure, camera systems, floor plans, and lighting/audio systems.)
Educate and train your congregation community on potential threats/hazards and the actions to take if an incident occurs, to include evacuation routes, safe zones, and other procedures.
Connect with and build relationship with local law enforcement, other first responders, and community-based security organizations.
Know how to report suspicious activities to law enforcement and a regional fusion center.
Implement low cost or no cost security measures such as active monitoring of existing security cameras during gatherings of your congregation or at your facility.
As well, to help bolster physical and virtual security, Cal OES has made available a series of Non-Profit Security Grants to enhance security infrastructure and related capabilities to Non-Profit and Faith Based Organizations and Houses of Worship. These grants were provided from two sources. The first was the Federal Non-Profit Security Grant Program (FNPSGP). Totaling $20.5M to date, Cal OES has provided federal grants to 158 California based organizations for security enhancements. The second is the State of California Non-Profit Security Grant Program (CNPSGP). Totaling $47.5M, Cal OES has received over 350 grant applications. Grant awards for the CNPSGP are expected to be released in the coming weeks. Faith-based and Non-Profit Organizations were able to apply for these grants through a competitive process and can find additional information on both grant programs by going to: Federal Fiscal Year 21 NSGP Information and California NSGP Information
Cal OES, through its California Specialized Training Institute (CSTI), offers training and exercises for Non-Profit and Faith-Based Organizations. CSTI can assist organizations with review of their plans, as well as set up table-top exercises and other scenario-based training for security teams and organization/congregation members. For further information on CSTI and its programs please visit: CSTI Information
Further, Cal OES, through its Homeland Security Division, can assist Non-Profit and Faith-Based Organizations with risk and vulnerability assessments, physical and virtual security enhancements, cybersecurity enhancements, security plan reviews, and facilitate connections to key partners in law enforcement and emergency services. The Cal OES Homeland Security Division can be reached at Infoshare@caloes.ca.gov
As time permits, conduct a more thorough review of the risks facing your organization and community. Here are a few of the resources and guidance documents available:
As the Homeland Security Advisor for the State of California, I assure you that the entire team here at Cal OES, along with the six regional intelligence fusion centers that make up California’s State Threat Assessment System and our partner public safety organizations, will continue to proactively engage with you as well as coordinate with local, state, federal and international law enforcement and intelligence agencies in the wake of these recent attacks. We will continue to work with our security partners at every level to maintain awareness of all emerging threats to houses of worship and to work tirelessly to protect the lives and property of our faith-based communities.
Please do not hesitate to reach out directly to my office should you have any questions or would like to discuss any of these initiatives further. I can be reached at 916-845-8538 and the Homeland Security Division can be reached at Infoshare@caloes.ca.gov.
MARK S. GHILARDUCCI
Governor’s Homeland Security Advisor