(July 22, 2013 / JNS)
It was the day after 26 people—20 of them children—were murdered in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut. An expert in security, Frank Storch, decided he had to take action.
Storch began drafting a booklet aimed at keeping schools safe. He estimates that it took hundreds of hours to write the 44-page “Keep Your School Safe,” which includes checklists of safety and security protocols that ask school officials to score their facilities on a wide variety of security concerns. For example, the guide asks if lockdown procedures are in place in every classroom, whether all interior and exterior doors are designed to close automatically and securely and if teachers are required to carry two-way radios when they’ve taken children outdoors.
The book also includes a “Bomb Threat Response Checklist”—with suggested questions to ask the caller, such as “Where is the bomb?” and “What does it look like?”—and urges the school to distribute a questionnaire to all staff members to assess how they view the school’s safety procedures. In addition, it provides a list of websites for resources such as the Department of Homeland Security and Community Security Service.
Earlier this year, Storch—through the Baltimore-based nonprofits Project Ezra, which he founded, and the Chesed Fund, which he created with his wife, Danielle Sarah—distributed 9,000 booklets to Jewish day schools, synagogue schools and community centers nationally. An additional 1,000 booklets were mailed to Jewish camps. He estimates the cost at $60,000 to $70,000. The booklet also is available online at http://www.staimanmedia.com/keepyourschoolsafe/images/ReportFINAL_4.25sm.pdf.
Storch says he made the booklet “just purely for the love of the Jewish people.”
“We have to protect the community,” he says.
Storch also undertook the project so that school officials could have something simple to follow with numerous measures that are not costly. For example, it provides a sheet to be completed with emergency contact information ranging from the local police department to the alarm and security company.
“The goal is to make people aware of areas they can work on and improve on them,” he says. “We’re giving them the easy tools for people to look at and be able to grade themselves.”
The Anti-Defamation League, which distributes its own safety guidelines, praised the booklet. “We think it’s a useful resource and a welcome complement to our materials,” says Elise Jarvis, the ADL’s associate director of law enforcement outreach and communal security.
Storch, a security consultant and coordinator for the Northern Park Heights Community Emergency Response Team in Baltimore, sought guidance from members of law enforcement agencies and SWAT teams, as well as U.S. and Israeli security and school professionals. “They gave us a little bit of feedback,” he says.
In a statement, the Jewish Federations of North America’s Secure Community Network, which consults with the Department of Homeland Security, calls the booklet “yet another excellent tool to equip our community leaders and those of you whom are responsible for securing our children, with the knowledge to better understand the risks, threats and vulnerabilities we all face and be empowered, to effect change, and to implement a true culture of security within our schools and institutions.”
Cheryl Hersh, head of school at the Austin Jewish Academy (AJA) in Texas, says her initial reaction to “Keep Your School Safe” was relief that she’s not in charge of security, since AJA is part of a larger complex of Jewish organizations with a security team in place.
Hersh is also impressed with how user-friendly the booklet is. “A lot of our crisis management stuff is not in a format that’s accessible,” Hersh says. This book “is a great reference” and useful tool for continued review for teachers and staff, she says.
Storch is making minor revisions to the guide, published in memory of both the Sandy Hook victims and the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing, so that it can be sent to public and non-Jewish private school.
“We want to make everyone aware there are things you can do and improve on without having to hire a company and spend a lot of money they don’t have,” he says.