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'We've been saying: plan'

Word of possible new terrorism is prompting organizations to emphasize preparations they've been making for three years.


"The building has had heightened security since September 11, so they get along well with this."

—John Scibilia

Word of possible new terrorist attacks is prompting faith-based organizations to emphasize preparations they've been making for nearly three years.

The Department of Homeland Security raised the terrorist threat to orange Sunday for finance sectors in New York City, northern New Jersey, and Washington, D.C., due to new intelligence it received recently. Targeted financial institutions in New York include the New York Stock Exchange and the Citigroup Center building.

Lutheran Disaster Response in New York (LDRNY) sent out an alert regarding preparedness plans that both organizations and families should have ready. Yet LDRNY Executive Director John Scibilia said this is something his organization preaches often to the public. "We're doing what we've been saying all along: plan," he said. "We're just using this situation as a chance to say it again."'

Scibilia said LDRNY is working closely on security preparations with the Saint Peter's Lutheran Church, which is located inside the Citigroup Center building in Manhattan. The Citigroup Center is a 59-story building, which was the site of many extra security precautions Monday. Heavily armed guards patrolled the skyscraper - the third-largest in Manhattan - while employees went through extensive security screenings to gain entrance. The heightened security is expected to continue throughout the week.

Saint Peter's is a very active church during the week, said Scibilia, so the church is taking the added precautions in stride.

"The building has had heightened security since September 11, so they get along well with this," said Scibilia, who is also a member of Saint Peter's. "There's also a commitment to stay active in the church - as in they'll stay open until they're actually told to close their doors."

He added that there is a fine line between security and open ministry, and between making people feel safe and making people feel nervous.

Religious officials in New York are speaking out in support for all affected residents and businesses. Steve Bouman, Bishop of the Metropolitan New York Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, released a statement yesterday regarding the new terror threat.

"(Saint Peter's is) working with Lutheran Disaster Response of New York to be a ministry of comfort and preparedness for their many neighbors in and around the Citicorp Center. Their programs are continuing," said Bouman in his statement.

"I also urge you to join me in praying for all of our members and their many neighbors who commute every day to Manhattan, who live near these places of risk, and who share concern about loved ones in these areas."

In northern New Jersey, other faith-based groups are double-checking response plans. The Salvation Army took the new terror alert just as seriously as it takes all raised alerts, according to its state human services director Brenda Beavers.

"We put all our volunteers on alert, we ascertain where all our personnel are located, and we make sure all our canteens are stocked and ready," said Beavers. "We also moved our canteens in New Jersey from the southern part of the state up to the north."

Beavers said The Salvation Army in New Jersey has been preparing for new security threats for months now due to the Republican National Convention being scheduled in New York City for late August. The announcement Sunday of this new potential threat adds to what she says are already heightened preparations by her organization.

Additionally, working through a network of already "in-place" disaster responders is yet another way to increase readiness. Beavers said The Salvation Army is an active member of the New Jersey Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (NJVOAD), and in the other VOADS set up in the counties across the state. This local work is a way of getting word out to individuals about having an emergency plan.

"We're encouraging our local corps to preach preparedness and make sure folks have the right information," said Beavers.

The Salvation Army's approach in the Washington, D.C., area is the same. "We're ready to roll at any time, but at these times we're even more ready," said Molly Lew, disaster services coordinator for the National Capital and Virginia Divisional Headquarters of The Salvation Army. "Terrorism has added a level of unknown, but we just try to prepare at every level."

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Related Links:

Saint Peter's Church, New York City

Lutheran Disaster Response in New York

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