Federation Hosts Security Training

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Curt Tilley, an instructor with the Department of Homeland Security Office for Bombing Prevention mobile training team, stresses a point during a bomb threat management workshop. CJN Photos/Bob Jacob

Article reprinted with permission from Cleveland Jewish News

By Bob Jacob

Jim Hartnett, director of community wide security for the Jewish Federation of Cleveland, could not have predicted how timely a bomb threat management workshop would be when he scheduled it six months ago.

The daylong workshop on Jan. 24 at the Federation’s Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Building in Beachwood provided insight to about two dozen synagogue officials, law enforcement officials and those involved in security at their businesses, and it took place in the wake of bomb threats to more than 30 Jewish community centers and institutions across the country on Jan. 18 and 16 bomb threats on Jan. 9.

“We had put this on the agenda several months ago and didn’t realize where we were going to be, given all of the bomb threats recently,” said Hartnett, a retired FBI agent. “The trend is rising in Europe and the United States, not just in the Jewish communities, but nationally.”

He expressed gratitude to all the law enforcement officials in attendance “who protect our facilities and look out for us. Thank you.”

The workshop was conducted by Curt Tilley, an instructor with the Department of Homeland Security Office for Bombing Prevention mobile training team, and Henry Royer, a counterterrorism instructor with the Office for Bombing Prevention, Critical Infrastructure Protection.

Tilley, a former trooper with the West Virginia State Police and former U.S. serviceman, said that he conducts similar workshops 46 to 47 weeks of the year. Royer is on active duty with the military.

While Jewish entities have been targeted by robo-calls and live calls lately, bomb threats using improvised explosive devices toward other entities are becoming more common, Tilley said.

Elements of the workshop were geared toward assembling a bomb threat plan, how to respond to bomb threats, discussing trends, determining evacuation protocols and more.

Tilley said that while most organizations have fire drills, and some have active shooter drills, few have bomb threat drills.

However, he said, bomb threats are increasing because of the information available on the internet, adding that 70 to 80 bomb threats are made monthly in the United States, although few people hear about them.

“So what’s changed over the last 20 years?” Tilley asked. “The materials have always been there, so what’s changed? The knowledge.

“Decades ago, when I started in law enforcement, we talked about the ‘anarchist cookbook.’ It was about how to build improvised devices or homemade (devices). You never saw it, the training division might have one, but you never saw it. The availability of the information of this stuff has so substantially increased.”

Tilley said that recently when he talks about bomb threats, he uses the Jewish community as an example.

In the past few weeks, bomb threats were received at Jewish institutions across the country, including Columbus and Cincinnati.

“Within the Jewish community, we would rate them as ‘frequent,’” he said. “When I say just ‘bomb threat,’ how often is the frequency that we are having them now within this community?”

Outside of the Jewish community, Tilley said, few organizations have been targets of bomb threats, so they may not have firsthand knowledge of those threats or comprehend the seriousness.

Tilley spoke about risk management because risk elimination isn’t an option.

“You can do things to control it,” he said. “You can do things to mitigate it, but you’re not going to eliminate most risks. We want to keep that in perspective.

“A bomb threat plan should be part of your overall security,” Tilley said.

“The terrorist element has been there. … Now when we start talking about bomb threats, more so than at any time in the past, we have to recognize what? We have to take them seriously. That this is going to be real. There is an increase in the use of these devices around the country.”

Timothy McVeigh used homemade explosives to destroy a federal building in 1995 in Oklahoma City that led to 168 deaths.

“McVeigh built a device unlike anything that we’ve seen at the time,” Tiller said. “He had some knowledge. He was military vet, a Bronze Star recipient in the first Gulf War. Today, you don’t have to have that military background, you don’t have to have that knowledge. Today, you have to have access to the internet. The use of the internet today is unbelievable.”

Anita Gray, regional director of the Anti-Defamation league in Cleveland, said “Unfortunately, the timing couldn’t be better because of what happened with the Jewish community last week, with 30 or so bomb threats. They say timing is everything in life, and this couldn’t have been timed any better. Unfortunately, I think we’re in an environment where everybody needs to be cognizant of their surroundings, and be helpful in keeping security in the Jewish community by keeping their eyes open.

“The fact of 70 to 80 bomb incidents in the country, most of which we aren’t aware of, and the fact that it’s the bomb incidents, even though they are more crime-oriented as opposed to terrorist-oriented, are on the increase, it tells me they’re looking for these kinds of events to happen more often, which is a bit scary.”

Hartnett said, “We plan to offer more of what we call resiliency training just to educate the community on how to be aware of safety concerns out there for the Jewish community and that we can better prepare them how to take a measured response to insure their safety.

“The more we work together with the experts out there – the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and area police to raise the collective awareness and mindset of people who work or volunteer at Jewish facilities and do our part in managing access control to our buildings and report suspicious activity to the police, the better chance we have of detecting and deterring any potential adversarial action directed at our community. We plan to continue to offer staff and volunteers at Jewish facilities personnel resiliency security training to be better prepared to meet the growing threats that we face every day.”

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