Keeping a Watchful Eye

Tips for managing access at our local events and organizations

Our community’s physical security and emotional security go hand in hand. Whether we are at a synagogue, a nonprofit, or another communal organization, we all can make a difference to the safety and security of those around us. The following tips can empower staff at our Jewish organizations to be aware of anything out of the ordinary that might affect the safety of the organization or our community.

Three tasks staff should be prepared to perform together:

Be Alert. Actively watch, look, and see what’s going on around you. Do not assume the security guard or other person has already noticed and taken care of an unattended bag or someone behaving suspiciously. Even if you notice nothing amiss, you are making the organization safer: your awareness conveys that there is someone alert and watchful who will engage with anyone unfamiliar.

Be Welcoming. If you are managing a community event and you see someone unfamiliar, approach and welcome them. Ask their name (after introducing yourself) and what brings them here. Be warm, be interested, be natural. Remember that you are simultaneously welcoming and screening.

Be Curious. Ask open-ended rather than yes/no questions and pay attention to non-verbal as well as verbal communication. Notice their body language, their facial expressions, and whether they are consistent with the answers they give you. If there is a mismatch between their words and their behavior, engage the assistance of someone in charge. Trust your intuition.

De-escalation techniques to handle unexpected situations:

Most interactions will be routine and friendly. There may be instances in the course of screening where you encounter a difficult or disruptive individual, but it does not immediately merit calling 911. In those ambiguous cases, use these techniques to resolve the situation.

Control your behavior. Project empathy, be respectful, and do not shout.

Manage expectations. Avoid defensiveness, be honest, and explain limits.

Use your senses. Watch their body language and their hands, and listen intently.

Be safe. Maintain a safe distance, back away if the situation escalates and call for assistance.

What to do in the event of an emergency:

Make sure you know who on site is designated to make the decision to call police or 911 unless it is a clear emergency. In the rare event of a worst-case scenario (such as a hostile armed individual), have a clear plan in place so that all staff know how to immediately sound the alarm and call 911.

For more information on ways to strengthen your Jewish organization’s security, contact Rafael Brinner, Director of  Community Security, or call 415.512.2893.

Categories: Community


October 11, 2019


Rafael Brinner