Since the fateful morning of Dec. 14, 2012, schools around the country have turned greater attention toward securing their facilities and ensuring the safety of their faculty, staff and students. The tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., which left 20 children and six adults dead, has caused school leaders across the country to ask, “How can we prevent that from happening to us?”
That pressing question is what sparked local philanthropist and security expert Frank Storch to author the recently released school safety and security guide, “Keep Your School Safe.” Storch, who is founder of the Chesed Fund Limited and Project Ezra, and coordinator of the Northern Park Heights Community Emergency Response Team, has more than 35 years of experience in hands-on safety and security consulting.
“I have thought about making this guide for many years,” he said. “But
because of the Newtown tragedy, I felt that it was imperative — now more than ever — for schools to take a much-needed closer look at their safety and security measures to keep our children from any potential harm.”
After completing the guide, Storch asked several well-known Jewish organizations to review it. The Orthodox Union, Agudath Israel of America and SCN (Secure Community Network) all gave it their approval.
“Frank Storch is very safety conscious. … In the [Baltimore] community, you see his actions in Project Ezra [the Chesed Fund and other organizations],” said Rabbi Ariel Sadwin, director of Agudath Israel of Maryland, the regional branch of the larger umbrella organization. “He’s very thorough. … People trained through this guide will know what to do in the event of an emergency, instead of panic and pandemonium.”
“Keep Your School Safe” is a straightforward, easily understood guide to implementing effective and affordable security measures for schools.
“It’s a good, comprehensive document,” said Paul Goldenberg, national director of SCN. “Though there’s no one-size-fits-all [security guide], this community created this document for their situation.”
The main section of the guide, “Emergency Preparedness Audit,” contains a self-scoring checklist that helps schools evaluate their emergency readiness and safety and security protocols. The guide also covers bomb threats, lockdown procedures and staff and student training.
Earlier this month, the guide was mailed to all Jewish schools — Orthodox, Reform, Conservative and community day schools — throughout North America. It was also sent to major synagogues and Jewish organizations. Later in June, the guide will be distributed to summer camps. A total 10,000 guides will be distributed.
In addition, the guide can also be downloaded as a PDF file on a new website, keepyourschoolsafe.com.
“Keep Your School Safe” is specifically aimed at Jewish institutions, which may be at greater risk than nonsectarian due to Anti-semitism. There are plans to develop a version for nonsectarian institutions.
“While we could not address every specific facility or school need,” Storch explained, “we provided recommendations for a wide variety of scenarios to include small-, medium- and large-sized schools.”
Storch also pointed out that most of the guide’s recommendations are not expensive, which make it practical for local Jewish day schools, many of which struggle financially.
“[The guide] is generally within the means [of most schools],” said Yehuda Friedman, the Orthodox Union’s associate director of synagogue services. “There are security services where you can train your staff at low cost, sometimes at no cost at all. Money should never be an issue.”
The OU, said Friedman, will be sending the guide through its networks for both schools and synagogues.
Hanna T. Glicksman is a JT intern.— firstname.lastname@example.org