Sunday, July 24, 2011

Thinking about camp security

Our hearts and prayers go out to the relatives of the victims of the two attacks in Norway.

There is no credible intelligence about any other plans to attack camps, or that there are plans to attack Jewish camps, in particular. Still, it is appropriate for us to ask, what are the lessons learned from the horrific events in Oslo? What are the best practices for camp security -- even while the details are still emerging?
  1. Lone wolves are dangerous. Unfortunately, a variety of people hate Jews and might choose Jews as targets. The need for continued vigilance, without any preconceptions as to who might be dangerous, continues.
  2. Beware of hostile surveillance.  Although the details are still emerging, it is unlikely that the island camp attacker did not try to view the grounds before his attack. Camp staff should be aware of the possibility of hostile surveillance and know how to report if something "just doesn't look right." See our tips to detect hostile surveillance here.
  3. Camps are a soft target. There are very few camps that are built with adequate perimeter security. At the same time, an intruder is more than likely to enter through the "front". It is wise to have someone screening those wishing to enter the camp. That person should have a remote "panic alarm" to alert camp staff if anyone suspicious is seeking entry.
  4. It helps to have a plan.Organizations should have plans to cover emergency situations. All too often, something happens and people are unprepared. It's better to think about what to do when you have time to think, plan and make arrangements.
  5. Know your options. The NYPD has studied the "active shooter" problem. They recommend that people: a) evacuate to a safe area, if possible; b) go to a "safe room" where people can barricade the door and hide in silence (the problem with most camps is that there are very few options); or  c) to take action against the shooter (by acting quickly and aggressively, collectively and with improvised weapons). According to the NYPD study, 46% of the armed intruder incidents ended via "Option C".
  6. Build and maintain a relationship with your local police.Camp leadership should meet with local police commanders to work out emergency  protocols. The fact that the suspect came dressed as a police officer is especially troubling. Local police should know how to contact camp leadership immediately and alert camp leaders if they are about to enter the camp.
  7. Know who's in your camp. Camps should develop credentials to be prominently worn by visitors and some support staff (e.g., bus drivers who might not be well known by other staff members). 
Keeping these items in mind can help make it a positive camp season. This blog welcomes other ideas. You can send your questions and your suggestions to

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Teaching our children how to cope and what to do

Safety for children. In light of the tragedy in Boro Park, we should be reaching out to parents, urging them to have discussions with their children about basic issues of personal safety. The tips below are from the NYPD and are a good start.

Helping children cope. In light of the Leiby Kletzky  a”h tragedy, Chai Lifeline received many requests to guide parents needing to explain to their children what occurred and how to help them process the information.  Click here to view an 8 minute video presentation by Dr. Norman Blumenthal, Chai Lifeline’s Director of Crisis Intervention.

Our thoughts and prayers are with Leiby's family, friends and classmates. His loss has touched a special chord in all of us.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The search for Leiby Kletzky

Hard-nosed reporters are amazed by the community response supporting the search for Leiby Kletzky, aged 8. He was last seen leaving his camp Monday at 5PM.

Since the missing person report was filed, the NYPD (mobilizing every possible resource) and the Jewish community have worked together closely. Alerts, robo-calls to community residents, missing person posters and house-to-house searches have been conducted by hundreds of volunteers. The search is coordinated by the Boro Park, Flatbush and Williamsburg Shomrim. A significant reward was also offered.

Anyone with information should call the 66th Precinct at 718-851-564.All of us can pray for the safe return of Yehuda ben Ita Esther.