Strengthening community response through partnerships and exercises

Preparation is one of the key functions necessary to building a safe and secure community. This activity takes many forms. Training, facility hardening, drills, and exercises are all activities that allow for the preparation of effective response to a critical incident. 

With this in mind, United Jewish Federation of Tidewater, Ohef Sholom Temple, and the Secure Community Network are supporting a Full-Scale Exercise (FSE) being undertaken by the City of Norfolk’s public safety team. The FSE will test the city’s response to a major incident at a synagogue, as well as its ability to connect and network with non-governmental entities such as UJFT, SCN, and Tidewater’s wider Jewish community. 

Full-Scale Exercises are complex events. Unlike a Tabletop Exercise (TTX), where the participants talk through and discuss a response to a notional incident, an FSE involves a simulated full response involving the public safety apparatus of the jurisdiction responsible for mitigating the incident. In an FSE, police, fire, and the Emergency Medical System all respond to the simulated event with the tactics and tools needed to form an effective response. All involved in this FSE will go to the facility hosting the event, encounter role players who will simulate victims and suspects, and be charged with successfully and safely developing a solution to bring a resolution to the problem set they encounter.

“We are grateful for Mike Goldmith’s leadership and expertise in coordinating this Full-Scale Exercise,” says Betty Ann Levin, executive vice president/CEO, United Jewish Federation of Tidewater. UJFT provides the financial resources, with the assistance of Tidewater Jewish Foundation and community donors, to support SCN in Tidewater. 

“Our partnership with SCN is critical to our community’s preparedness in regard to safety and security,” says Levin. “With the alarming uptick in antisemitic violence seen around the country, having SCN’s expertise and communication network available is a crucial component of our security program.”

Levin also emphasizes the community’s appreciation “for the strong support of our law enforcement partners, in addition to that of our elected local, state, and federal officials” for their efforts to protect the Jewish community and speak out against hate crimes. 

The FSE at Ohef Sholom Temple will take place on Sunday, August 11. The scenario will replicate the October 27, 2018 shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pa. These Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Core Capabilities will be tested during this exercise:

1) Planning

2) Public Information and Warning

3) Operational Coordination 

This FSE will not only strengthen Norfolk’s ability to respond to an event, but it will also inform how the Jewish community needs to prepare for its response as well as how to best work with the city during a critical incident. Additionally, exercises of this type strengthen Norfolk’s ability to respond to events in other cultural environments. The skills learned in working with the Jewish community will sensitize the public safety team to its need to work with other faith communities. 

“Security is a 24/7 commitment that encompasses in-house training, exercises, establishing security procedures and policies, and most critically, dialoging with local law enforcement and emergency management organizations,” says David Jarvis, chair of Ohef Sholom Temple’s security committee. “As such, the Full-Scale Exercise is a critical component of local security planning and execution. We are extremely pleased to host the exercise at Ohef Sholom Temple.”

Training and exercising are two critical pieces of any safety and security program. Placing this FSE before the upcoming High Holiday season is intentional. It is important to never become complacent in efforts to keep one another safe. 

UJFT will soon announce a training schedule to help keep the community prepared for this important time of the year. Look for the notices and sign up. Community public safety is a team sport. Everyone’s participation is needed.

Contact Mike Goldsmith, with any questions.

Mike Goldsmith is United Jewish Federation of Tidewater’s SCN Regional Security Advisor.