Earlier this month, an 88-year-old gunman opened fire with a .22-caliber rifle at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., killing 39-year-old security guard Stephen T. Johns, who had been with the facility for six years.
The suspect was later identified as James W. von Brunn, a reported white supremacist with a history of violence. Von Brunn served six years in prison during the 1980s for attempting to kidnap several members of the Federal Reserve Board.
While no one could have predicted the alleged actions of Von Brunn, the incident does reinforce the need for Jewish centers and synagogues across the nation to evaluate their security plans and conduct risk assessments to make sure that they can minimize the risks associated with an active shooter scenario.
“The main lesson (from the Holocaust Museum shooting) is when you don’t have an incident of this magnitude occur very often, you tend to become complacent and the security protocols and procedures that you have in place and that you should be following on a daily basis, sometimes become lax,” said Richard “Dick” Raisler, director of community-wide security for the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta. “This is a motivator for all the Jewish agencies and synagogues to maintain vigilance in their daily security operations.”
Raisler added that the incident also highlights the importance of having perimeter security to mitigate threats before they enter your facility.
“This incident just brings (the idea of layered security) to the forefront,” he said. You will find that many synagogues and Jewish facilities don’t have a full-time security officer because people have to multi-task. This will motivate them to make sure they stay on top of (security) operations that they should have in place.”
Raisler said that all Jewish community centers and places of worship should have a plan in place to deal with an active shooter scenario and train their employees on the proper protocols to follow during such an incident.
Though he couldn’t disclose specific details regarding how the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta would deal with a potential shooter, Raisler said he advises his and other security personnel to be on the look out for tell tale signs.
“I call them ‘DLRs’ and that’s an acronym for ‘don’t look right’,” he said. “Whether it be someone surveiling your facility, taking pictures, asking for diagrams or just asking questions, that is what people need to be aware of. “Our experience tells us that, in most scenarios prior to the incident, the perpetrator has done some type of surveillance.”
Going forward, Raisler says that Jewish facilities should learn from this incident and incorporate procedures that help prevent or at least minimize the impact of potential terror attacks.
“We try to look at the situation, learn the facts, actually what occurred and what was done… and that’s how we learn,” Raisler said. “Most of our protocols and procedures are based upon past experience or incidents that we have learned from and that is true for all areas of security.”