Many of you have noticed and commented on how nice our new fencing along Percy Warner Boulevard looks. Not only do the brick columns and eight-foot metal fence sections look better, but the fence also sends a powerful message – that we care about this place and will do everything we can to keep it secure and the participants inside safe.
Our security measures begin at that fence, but that is only the start. We are aware that no one mitigation approach keeps us safe, but rather it is the layers of deterrence that can dissuade someone from doing something harmful here. Our blue light license plate reader (LPR) camera is another obvious preemption, as are the fortified doors you see around our campus. Even the large rocks in the front circle and in front of the new Madeline Pargh Arts and Crafts Center were strategically placed to prevent someone from driving into our buildings. New cameras and our new access control software also add another layer of oversight by limiting who can come into our buildings. And, as suggested on our recent security assessment, we have identified designated safe rooms in our buildings. Our security vehicle makes regularly scheduled trips around our campus. We don’t typically talk about our security measures publicly, and I only mention those that you can readily see.
When I arrived on our campus in 2013, I questioned why we spent so much money on security, especially when we were facing large budget deficits. I had never seen that level of security at a JCC, and at first, it felt a bit cold. But within a few years, we received three bomb threats. I immediately became appreciative of our knowledgeable security team, our access control, and our camera system. I quickly understood how far ahead of other JCCs around the country the Gordon JCC was in terms of security. We were fortunate that previous leadership had made security such an area of high importance.
In the 10 years since, we have continued to harden our campus with additional layers. With the guidance and persistence of experienced security directors, we have focused on each of these layers one at a time. These improvements were made possible with four Homeland Security grants and an equal amount of earmarked capital campaign dollars from donors who also wanted the JCC to be a secure gathering place for the Jewish community. Beyond these capital expenditures, which totaled nearly $500,000, we now spend $180,000 operating dollars each year on security; unfortunately, a necessary requirement in today’s world.
We have expanded our security team, both in numbers and professional experience, to cover the over 80 hours per week that our campus is open. They look at our world a little differently than we do, and constantly pick up gaps that we, as programmers, fail to notice. It takes all of us working together to keep this campus as safe as possible. We have also invested in their training. All eight of our security officers, who prefer to remain anonymous, recently completed the eight-hour Armed Guard Active Shooter training. While the impetus to complete this training was the result of the new rules regarding School Resource Officers, it was a training that we had discussed for a while. And speaking of training, our security team also helps train JCC and Akiva staff, and we are putting together an annual training schedule as recommended by the Secure Community Network.
Even with all these measures and training, we will never gloat or rest on our laurels. Our security team knows that they must always be alert and aware of current and future happenings on our campus, in the community, and even on the web. Situation awareness, by all of us, remains the most effective way to keep us safe. So, if you see something, say something.