Yoni Ari

Preparing for the Inevitable: Steps for Nonprofits to Address Safety Threats

Organizations across the United States are facing a dangerous new reality, as they deal with an increasing number of security threats, hate crimes, and terror attacks that continue to grow at an alarming rate.

In the first three weeks of 2023 alone, the Gun Violence Archive reported 39 mass shootings across the country. And the latest figures from Anti-Defamation League (ADL) released this month show a staggering 3,697 incidents of antisemitism reported in 2022, the highest number recorded by the ADL since 1979. In Pennsylvania, where I grew up, there were 114 antisemitic incidents in 2022 alone.

Running a nonprofit is supposed to be rewarding, not dangerous, but this is the world we live in.

Even before the ADL released their shocking numbers, the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was aware of the security problem and announced in late February that it has allocated over $2 billion in funding for eight programs aimed to provide vital resources for preparedness and prevention. The eight programs will help state, local, tribal, and territorial governments, transportation authorities, and nonprofit organizations to prepare for, respond to, and prevent acts of terrorism.

Nonprofit organizations can benefit from the increased funding provided by FEMA’s Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP), which now stands at $305 million after Congress approved an additional $55 million this year. This federal support is crucial to help nonprofits across the nation make necessary security enhancements, according to FEMA.

Nonprofits should take advantage of available funds for emergency preparedness measures. Grant money from NSGP can be used for equipment purchases, personnel costs, and training programs as well as security equipment like cameras, alarms, and access control systems to enhance their overall security.

But remember, emergency preparation isn’t only about physical security. It’s about investing in human behavior and building resilient communities. The importance of locked doors, cameras and access control (getting people from one place to another) cannot be overstated. But investing in human behavior means investing in the people who run the organization and training them to respond effectively to a crisis situation.

Effective safety procedures require more than just a well-written plan; they rely on people to carry them out. Authorities have come to acknowledge that investing in non-equipment related activities can be just as effective as investing in equipment-related ones. But this goes beyond the training and vulnerability assessments. Investing in human behavior is arguably the most important aspect of preparedness. And if organizations can get funding for it, then they should make sure to apply.

Communication and collaboration is also critical during emergencies and individuals must be able to work together to ensure that information is shared quickly and accurately. Organizations can invest in human behavior by creating a culture of collaboration that encourages people to work together.

Training staff to prepare for emergency situations ensures that everyone knows what to do in the event of an emergency and helps to minimize the risk of panic and confusion. Lack of proper training can lead to disastrous consequences. It is just as important to invest in training, alongside physical security measures and a comprehensive security plan.

While it may seem obvious to apply for funding from FEMA and DHS for additional physical security elements, organizations should also prioritize applying for funds to develop the skills and knowledge of their staff. After all, organizations – and their success and safety – are ultimately defined by the individuals who comprise them.

As the frequency of targeted incidents continues to rise, nonprofits must take action to protect themselves and keep their communities safe.

About the Author
Yoni is the co-founder and Executive Director of the Jewish Emergency Preparedness Project (JEPP), a nonprofit organization building stronger, more resilient faith-based communities. He oversees the organization's community-based programs and initiatives, which focus on enhancing and promoting emergency planning, preparedness, and resiliency. Yoni specializes in creating protocols and procedures, building effective emergency response teams, and creating workshops and drills. Yoni is also a retired Major of the Israeli Defense Force (IDF), having served in the Home Front Command unit. He has a bachelor's degree in Jewish Studies from Gratz College and a master’s degree in Public Policy from Tel Aviv University.
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