Houses of worship in NJ are ramping up security

With the holiday season just around the corner, New Jersey’s churches, synagogues and mosques will soon be hosting a variety of religious ceremonies and celebrations.

As part of a proactive effort to keep everyone safe, the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness is beginning to hold meetings with religious leaders throughout the Garden State

On Tuesday, representatives of the NJOHSP, along with the Middlesex County Attorney’s Office, the US Department of Homeland Security and representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, will host a safety seminar at Middlesex County places of worship.

Charlie Ambio, acting director of preparedness and head of NJOHSP’s risk management office, said the program will include presentations and discussions on a variety of topics, including active shooter response and contingency planning.

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What are the current threats in NJ?

“It’s important to note that New Jersey currently has no credible threats, but we continue to see mass shootings at mass gathering sites around the world, including places of worship,” he said.

“We have this program that allows participants to interact with state and local security officials and public safety officials, which makes those connections important on blue sky days but can be especially important during a crisis response,” he said

Ambio said there will be a discussion on the Interfaith Advisory Council, created to facilitate the sharing and dissemination of safety information with religious organizations.

“We will also be speaking to them about grant opportunities, including the New Jersey Nonprofit Safety Grant Program, which provides funds to eligible nonprofit organizations across New Jersey.”

ChristinLola Getty Images

ChristinLola Getty Images

How to make places of worship in NJ safer

He said grants could pay for security guards at places of worship, as well as target hardening equipment.

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Although there hasn’t been a mass shooting at a New Jersey place of worship, Ambio said preparedness is key.

“We always encourage people to follow our readiness cycle, which includes planning, organizing, training, equipment, exercise, assessment and then taking corrective action for identified deficiencies,” he said.

“And what we always tell people is if they see something, report it by calling 1-866-4-SAFE-NJ.”

Information can be emailed to [email protected]

David Matthau is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at [email protected]

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