With the holiday season right around the corner New Jersey churches, synagogues and mosques will soon be holding a variety of religious ceremonies and celebrations.

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

On Tuesday, representatives from the NJOHSP, alongside the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and representatives of the Federal Emergency Management Agency will be hosting a Middlesex County Houses of Worship Security Seminar.

Charlie Ambio, the acting director of preparedness and the risk management bureau chief for NJOHSP said the program will feature presentations and discussions on a variety of topics including active shooter response and emergency planning.

What are the current threats in NJ?

“It’s important to note that New Jersey has no known credible threats at this time, but we do continue to see mass shooting incidents occurring in mass gathering locations around the world, including at houses of worship,” he said.

“We have this program that allows attendees to interact with federal state and local security and public safety officials, making these connections on blue sky days are important, but can be especially important during a crisis response," he said

Ambio said there will be discussion about the Interfaith Advisory Council, which was created to facilitate the sharing and dissemination of security information with faith-based organizations.

“We’ll also talk to them about grant opportunities including the New Jersey nonprofit security grant program, which provides funding to eligible nonprofit organizations across New Jersey.”

ChristinLola GettyImages
ChristinLola GettyImages

How to make houses of worship safer in NJ

He said grants can pay for security personnel at houses of worship as well as target hardening equipment.

While there has not been a mass shooting event at a New Jersey house of worship Ambio said preparedness is key.

“We always encourage folks to follow our preparedness cycle, which is planning, organizing, training, equipping, exercising, evaluating and then taking corrective actions on deficiencies that you find,” he said.

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

Information can be emailed to tips@njohsp.gov.

David Matthau is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at david.matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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