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What can we learn from Uvalde's Shooting to protect our Jewish institutions?

By Joni Ari

Chief Executive Officer of JEPP

Last week, the Texas house investigative committee released a preliminary report about a series of failures by multiple law enforcement agencies and the school security procedures at Uvalde elementary school massacre.

Since the massacre of 19 children and two teachers in Uvalde, Texas, it has been the topic of nearly every single conversation in my world. Most discussions were about gun control or about finding out what happened or about what, when, and why everything went wrong. In my world, however, another question looms large. Sometimes the question is raised front and center. Sometimes, it lurks in the background – the unspoken proverbial elephant in the room. The question is: How safe are our Jewish agencies and organizations, our shuls, synagogues and temples, our day schools and Hebrew schools, our camps, museums, and JCCs? Is it enough to invest in physical security needs? What can we learn from the Uvalde situation report to improve our safety and security measures at our Jewish institutions?

So I read the entire report and assessed what we can learn from this tragic incident to protect our Jewish institutions.

The major key takeaways from the Uvalde shooting

School was unprepared

  • Robb Elementary did not adequately prepare for the risk of an armed intruder on campus.

  • The school's 5-foot-tall exterior fence, which surveillance video showed the gunman easily climbed over to get onto the campus, was "inadequate to meaningfully impede an intruder.

  • While the school had adopted security policies to ensure exterior doors and internal classroom doors were locked during school sessions, those protocols were mostly ignored.

  • There was a regrettable culture of noncompliance by school personnel who frequently propped doors open and deliberately circumvented locks.

  • The school actually suggested circumventing the locks as a solution for the convenience of substitute teachers and others who did not have their own key.

  • Although Robb Elementary had safeguards and active shooter procedures in place, school staff had developed a culture of complacency around such measures.

  • The school was also set up with an intruder alert system, but the frequency of "bailout" alerts, which flag the presence of fleeing human traffickers in the area, desensitized teachers to their urgency.

School staff knew doors were unlocked

  • The gunman entered the school through a door on the west side of the campus that didn't latch properly after a teacher propped it open with a rock to bring food from her car.

  • In violation of school policy, no one had locked any of the three exterior doors to the west building of Robb Elementary.

  • Staff and students widely knew that the door to one of the victimized classrooms, Room 111, was ordinarily unsecured and accessible.

No incident commander at the scene

  • The Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District and the various agencies and law enforcement officers who were on the scene in the response to the shooting were disorganized and paralyzed and failed to take action because there was no leadership or commander at the site.

  • It took 77 minutes between the time the suspect entered the school until the officers breached the door of the classroom and killed him.

Lack of communication

  • The committee found that by simply setting up a command post, which was not done, the chaos of the moment could have been transformed into order by the incident commander assigning tasks and aiding in the flow of information that could have been used to "inform critical decisions."

How can you improve your institution’s safety and security?

Build a Security Planning Committee in your institution. This group should include staff and lay leaders of the organization. The group should help carry the burden of planning and implementation.

Prepare a vulnerability assessment for your facility. The assessment should include physical security, level of readiness, emergency management, operation and logistics, communication policy, and cyber-security.

Work on the Plan of Action, build a chain of command and assign roles and responsibility for 24/7 coverage, build an Emergency Response Team, update protocols and procedures, and create an internal and external communication plan.

Train your staff and volunteers. The exercises should include security awareness, policies and procedures, roles and responsibilities, cyber -security, and crisis management.

Doing all of the above will develop a culture of preparedness in your institution which enables effective responses to incidents before, during and after they occur. This preparedness will save lives and property and will instill confidence in your constituents because there is a plan in place to deal with emergencies.

JEPP is currently working to improve safety and security with 12 organizations in the Philadelphia region. If you want to get more information about our program which is based on 40 years of Israeli experience in emergency management, please send us an email. and view our website:

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