Jewish community adds security resource center
By Chanan Tigay
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NEW YORK (JTA) — In an effort to fortify its institutions against terrorist attacks, the U.S. Jewish community has added a security resource center, which law enforcement officials say could save lives and serve as a model for other American communities, to the rapid-warning service it launched last year.
Partnering with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and state and local law enforcement agencies, the Secure Community Network, becoming known as SCN, works with a Tennessee-based communications company whose high-speed alert system allows SCN to quickly disseminate information on threats to its 55 member organizations, which in turn can warn their own constituent groups.
Over the past year, SCN, founded by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and the United Jewish Communities federation umbrella group, has initiated close working relationships with law enforcement agencies and has begun operating a full-time security monitoring center that is in continuous contact with these agencies nationwide and around the globe, officials say.
SCN also has teamed up with the Department of Homeland Security recently in a series of comprehensive security audits of more than 40 Jewish facilities nationwide, including synagogues, day schools, camps and homes for the aged.
The group also is working with the department to develop self-assessment tools that would enable organizations to determine some of their needs and vulnerabilities on their own. Homeland Security has given SCN a high-level designation facilitating notification and information exchanges between the groups.
SCN established the Law Enforcement Advisory Committee, comprising current and former high-ranking law-enforcement officials charged with crafting a response when warnings come in.
Most recently, SCN went online with its Web site, www.scnus.org. The site includes security recommendations ranging from policies on handling mail and threatening phone calls to sections on understanding the terrorist threat against the Jewish community and dealing with bomb threats. The site has links to other security sites.
SCN has a "written understanding" on security cooperation with Homeland Security and the New York Police Department, and an "oral understanding" with the FBI, its leaders say.
The group also has relationships with several other police departments and is encouraging communities to develop relationships with their local police.
Once law enforcement determines that a particular threat is credible and warrants warning groups, the alert system can almost instantaneously send out warnings to e-mail addresses, pagers and telephone numbers. The national groups then can put out warnings to their member groups.
If a particular site is targeted, it would receive information beyond what comes through this system. If a specific region seems to be at risk, the system can be activated regionally.
Ultimately, SCN officials say, they hope the system will be able to dispatch warnings to a significantly larger number of groups.