Security Theater: Cheap, quick, and makes you feel good!


A local news story (https://cbs4indy.com/2019/01/10/carmel-synagogue-hosts-active-shooter-training/) featured a Carmel, Indiana synagogue that is hosting an active shooter-training seminar taught by the Indiana State Police. This particular synagogue has been the target of anti-Semitic vandalism and threats in recent months. Although they were resistant to addressing their security issues in the past, it appears that they have now decided to get some outside advice.

I have no doubt that the Trooper putting on the “free” training does an excellent job within the constraints he is given. The “Active Shooter Training” program designed by the Indiana State Police is good public service and the Troopers involved are to be commended for putting together a program like this. Yet, we have to be realistic about what it is. It’s a free lecture that is focused on one specific threat, active shooters. I am sure all the Troopers who put on this training would love to address other threats, but that’s simply outside the scope of what this program is designed to do.

The sad reality is what generally happens when the news cameras leave and the Trooper goes back to his regular job. After this training, “What sustainable security model has been put into place that allows this synagogue to measure risk and plan for mitigation of those risks? Have they decided to implement armed security that can deal with a lethal threat? Are members permitted to be armed and do they know their responsibilities during an active shooter situation?”

In the best-case scenario, the answer to the question is “Yes.” Ideally, the training gave them all the information they need to put an effective mitigation strategy in place for an active shooter. But what if the threat isn’t a shooter? What if the threat is a person driving their vehicle through the building during prayer? Do they have effective barricades in place to mitigate that risk? What if the threat is an arson attack or a bombing? Or maybe the threat is multiple attackers armed with knives? Is the synagogue, after a short lecture, now prepared to deal with these threats?

In the book, “Praying Safe,” my co-author Grant Cunningham and I point out that in many cases these seminars become nothing more than “Security Theater” to the religious groups hosting them. Those volunteering their time and effort are unaware that these groups typically lack the commitment in time, money, and resources, to put a sustainable security model in place. When these groups are seeking out “free” and “quick” it’s a good indicator that they don’t plan to deal with security long term. It’s simply a quick way to check the box and feel good that they’ve done something.

Seeing this “Security Theater” approach is one of the reasons Grant and I wrote “Praying Safe.” We felt the need to warn others that this is a common reaction after a publicized security incident and to push for something more substantial. I hope this is not the case with this particular Synagogue and that they are finally taking a long-term approach to the safety and security of their members.

In the end, we want to see these religious facilities transition from “soft targets” to hardened facilities that are actively managing the risks directed towards them. Only then will those facilities be truly prepared to deal with the threats that come their way. Only then will their members be able to truly “Pray Safe.”

Praying Safe: The professional approach to protecting faith communities  

If you would like to learn more about target based risk management and how it can be used to protect houses of worship or any other soft target, get our book today!

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