Expert discusses securing places of worship as war rages
Nov 9, 2023, 6:00 PM | Updated: 7:40 pm
(Matt Rourke /Associated Press)
SALT LAKE CITY — On Oct. 8, two days after Hamas launched a series of deadly attacks on Israel, a synagogue in Salt Lake City received a bomb threat. Later that day, similar bomb threats were reported across Salt Lake.
And as the holiday season approaches, places of worship are planning on more congregants gathering. Should extra precautions be taken?
Matt Beaudry, who is a protective security adviser for the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, told KSL NewsRadio that three elements can lead to a safer worship experience.
War travels around the world
Beaudry said local communities are feeling the repercussions of the Israel and Hamas war.
“The occurrence of these threats is persistent and it is escalating,” he said. ” . . . it translates across the world, and Utah is not immune.”
Protecting churches, synagogues, and other religious sites, Beaudry said, begins with prevention, preparation, and planning. The next step is to assess the risk a religious site is facing, such as shootings, bombings, and even vehicle ramming.
“There’s a balance that places of worship strike between making them safe and secure, but also remaining welcoming,” Beaudry said.
Schools, community centers and other places associated with faith-based organizations also need protection and security, he added.
But it’s not just buildings — it’s also the people occupying the facilities.
CISA also teaches “lay staff, ushers, greeters, even parishioners on what to look for as possible threat indicators, and then the steps to take to report it, take action and even as much as getting out of the building rapidly,” Beaudry said.
Help is free
CISA offers a security toolkit for anyone looking to protect a place of worship. “Just have us come to your site. Let’s sit down and talk about what you’re concerned with.
“Let’s walk around your site. Let’s discuss what you think your needs are. Let’s start to peel back the layers and get into the details,” he said.
And it’s all free.
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