Faith-Based information Sharing and Analysis Organization Hosts Preparedness Workshops

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The Events are Designed to Assist Faith-Based Organizations with Threat Awareness and Preparedness Relating to Potential Physical Attacks

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Faith-Based Organizations continue to be as vulnerable today as they were in years past when there were notable attacks on people and places of faith. Many organizations are trying to better understand their threat environment and what responsible security looks like. It was only two years ago when one of the most horrific attacks on the community of faith occurred at the Tree of Life Synagogue. As recently stated by the Homeland Security Advisory Committee (HSAC) Subcommittee for the Prevention of Targeted Violence Against Faith-Based Organizations, “Securing a congregation is a bottom-up process, and there are no one-size-fits-all security plans… While each place of worship will need to create a system that suits its individual resources, culture, and comfort level, there are concrete steps FBOs can take to enhance security.” And in remarks to the U.S. Senate in September 2020, FBI Director Wray noted, “Many… violent extremists, both domestic and international, are motivated and inspired by a mix of ideological, sociopolitical, and personal grievances against their targets, which recently have more and more included large public gatherings, houses of worship… Trends may shift, but the underlying drivers for domestic violent extremism—such as perceptions of government or law enforcement overreach, sociopolitical conditions, racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, misogyny, and reactions to legislative actions—remain constant. As stated above, the FBI is most concerned about lone offender attacks, primarily shootings…”

During the height of the pandemic, on May 22, 2020, President Trump declared “houses of worship, churches, synagogues and mosques” to be “essential places that provide essential services.” People gather at FBOs to do all sorts of things, to include worship, but also to socialize, attend classes, teach their children, provide community-based services like job search support, receive mental health services, and other activities. In fact, the Faith-Based Information Sharing and Analysis Organization, along with its Board of Advisors, asked President Trump to formally designate an additional sector of critical infrastructure by establishing a Faith-Based Sector to include places of worship, food pantries, schools, and other charities and faith-based organizations (broadly, FBOs).

Further, the ongoing COVID-19 global pandemic is a complex and blended threat impacting members and the broader faith-based and charity community in numerous ways and that continues to impact security and response, both to manmade and natural threats.

  • Protests. Whether seen as supportive of protests – directly, logistically, or as sanctuaries or meeting places – or if seen as being opposed to protests, FBOs have been attacked from both sides. Given recent events, ongoing protests, a tense political election season, and other considerations, protests may pose direct and indirect risks to FBOs.
  • Disgruntled Individuals. Individuals who do not agree with positions taken by an FBO during periods of closure and reopening may take action against those organizations or others. As FBOs reopen and welcome back individuals, it is possible that some may have heightened sensitivities regarding these issues and may not respond well to personnel attempting to enforce safety actions.
  • U.S. Elections and Events. As election-related activities and rhetoric increase in the final weeks of the election season, it is possible that political rallies may see protests and counter-protests – aimed at politicians, groups, or places of worship where events may be held. Such concerns are not limited to any party or individual but are a possibility for any political event occurring at or near an FBO. Additionally, given the possibility of a prolonged period of time to identify winners from November’s elections, tensions may be elevated for some time, and after results are announced. FBOs should remain mindful of local events and tensions as they assess threats and security needs.

It is with this sentiment that the Faith-Based Information Sharing and Analysis Organization (FB-ISAO) announces the resumption of our 2020 Workshop Series focusing on Hostile Events Preparedness. Like other events affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, these workshops will be offered virtually. With the process formally starting in July 2019, FB-ISAO led a collaborative planning process among the ISAO, U.S. Government partners, and state and local government and law enforcement partners from around the United States.

“Faith-Based Organizations and especially houses of worship continue to be exposed and targets of violence. They need training and resources to increase their resiliency and preparedness. FB-ISAO regional workshops provide an opportunity for all who attend to interact with one another and to discuss best practices and opportunities for improvement regarding physical security preparedness.” - Senior Cantor of Temple Rodef Shalom of Falls Church, Virginia and FB-ISAO Advisory Board member.

2020 Workshop Series objectives include:
Provide a forum for faith-based and charity organizations to enhance their threat awareness and preparedness relating to potential physical attacks at their facilities.

  • Use a hostile events scenario to provide participants an opportunity to interact with one another and discuss issues, concerns, best practices and other salient points regarding physical security preparedness, coordination and response among participants.
  • Use a hostile events scenario to provide participants with greater awareness of U.S. Government and local government resources, guidance and best practices relating to hostile events and physical security to help inform organizational preparedness, security & resilience.
  • Exercises are a vital part of preparedness and security. The workshops will educate participants on the Hostile Events Attack Cycle and challenge them to consider their preparedness and ability to respond to an enduring threat challenge facing all organizations – to include places of worship and charities.

“We are not far removed from recent attacks against FBOs in Pennsylvania, Texas, and California, and a seeming daily occurrence of violence and vandalism aimed at places of worship. Unfortunately, combined with the complexities of the pandemic, many remain in a reactive mode and may be drawing the wrong lessons from some of our recent tragedies. In these exercises, FB-ISAO won’t advocate for or against having armed security, for example, and the workshops won’t be presentations. Rather, these workshops are an opportunity for participants to share and learn from peers and public sector partners about best practices, lessons learned, challenges and key considerations. There are best practices but there is no ‘cookie-cutter’ solution for security. Through these workshops, we hope participants come out more informed, more aware, and more prepared to go back and mature their organization’s security and resilience in a way that respects their specific needs. The community of faith is stronger when we work together. These workshops are one of the key ways FB-ISAO strives to encourage that.” – Mayya Saab, Executive Director, FB-ISAO.

Among other government entities, fusion centers and partners, FB-ISAO is grateful for the partnership of the Virginia Fusion Center and the InfraGard National Capital Region chapter.
Stay aware of workshop dates and locations here, where you can also sign up for FB-ISAO’s free Hostile Events Preparedness webinars, provided by homeland security risk management experts from Gate 15, an FB-ISAO sponsor.
Workshop Schedule (developing):

13, 14 and 15 Oct: Virginia – Session 1
20, 21 and 22 Oct: Virginia – Session 2
12 Nov: Wisconsin
Other 2020 events may include Pennsylvania and others.

FB-ISAO is a membership-driven organization that is open to US citizens of all faiths and their supporting organizations. The Faith-Based Information Sharing and Analysis Organization serves as a trusted partner at the center of a national network of faith-based organizations and associations that have been informed and equipped to prevent, protect against, mitigate, respond to, and recover from incidents arising from all-hazards, ensuring the resilience and continuity of these important community assets that include Cybersecurity incidents, Physical security incidents, Public health incidents and Natural disasters. Find us at FB-ISAO and join the conversation on Twitter and LinkedIn.
Contact: Mayya Saab, Faith-Based Information Sharing and Analysis Organization
Phone: 703.963.3459
Email: Mayya@faithbased-isao.org

The Virginia Fusion Center’s VFC SHIELD program provides a conduit for information exchange between citizens, businesses, organizations and public safety agencies. VFC SHIELD provides information on personal safety, crime prevention measures, suspicious activity recognition, safety for houses of worship among others. Through training, preparation, and situational awareness, individuals can utilize this information to better protect themselves, their families and their communities.
Contact: Dante Robinson, Special Agent, Training and Outreach, FLO & SHIELD Coordinator
Phone: (804) 674-2204
Email: dante.robinson@vsp.virginia.gov

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Mayya Saab

Dante Robinson
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