From The OU: How Jewish Institutions Should Prepare for Emergencies

20 Jun 2006

In a determined effort to counteract the modern-day threats posed by terrorism and natural disasters, the Orthodox Union presented guidelines for Emergency Planning for Synagogues and Jewish Organizations at a seminar held recently at its New York headquarters.

The panel of experts outlining the guidelines for effective institutional disaster and crisis response systems included David Pollock of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York (JCRC), and Paul DeMatteis and John Friedlander of Global Security Risk Management. The seminar was presented by the Pepa and Rabbi Joseph Karasick Synagogue Services Department of the Orthodox Union, and the JCRC.

The central message of the presentations was that a carefully coordinated and comprehensive emergency plan can enable the leadership of an organization to be optimally prepared for virtually any disaster situation. As emphasized at the seminar, the key points of proper emergency planning for Jewish institutions are the following:

· Use All-Hazards Planning: Identify the potential local (e.g., hurricane, earthquakes), technological (e.g., blackouts), criminal/terrorist and administrative hazards that can affect your community and your institution.

· Vulnerability Analysis: Create a chart that calculates the probability of each potential major crisis and its potential impact.

· Definition of “Mission-Critical” Functions: Prepare a detailed plan on how to provide essential services to your clientele and the general local population during a disaster.

· Scenario-Based Planning: Prepare and practice two different plans for appropriate actions, including evacuation, effective communication protocols, and preparation of emergency items.

· Protection Strategies: Plan appropriate safety moves, including safe sheltering in a secure area, lockdown and handling of suspicious objects.

· Response Teams: Establish personnel response teams with clear lines of authority, designated responsibilities and order of response priorities.

· Emergency Resources: Prepare contact lists of staff, family members and responders; procedural checklists; and floor plans.

· Preparing for a Terrorist Strike: Identify all likely target areas in the vicinity (e.g., underground parking, mass transit) and vulnerable organizational aspects (e.g., garage entrance, breach of confidentiality of security information); provide awareness training for security and mailroom personnel; determine and ensure building’s structural viability and operational capacities in the event of physical incursion; and designate a press officer to communicate with the media during a crisis.

“We presented this seminar to remind synagogues and Jewish organizations that, given the terrorist attacks of September 11 and the recent devastation of Hurricane Katrina, it is important to have plans in place for any disaster,” declared Rabbi Mayer Waxman, Director of Synaogogue Services at the OU. “This event allowed us to provide the resources that will help Jewish institutions make the necessary preparations to ensure the safety of their staff and constituents.”