Protect Your Community – A Teacher’s Toolkit

Younus Imam – Contributing Faculty Member
The SALAM Project

Why: Hate Crime against all religious communities is on the rise. Events such as the New Zealand shooting and the Sri Lanka bombings demonstrate a need to both reduce hate crime within communities and invest in security measures. These skillsets will translate into better emergency preparedness for other hazards such as fires, outages, flooding and medical crises.

Who: Founded by Detective Waseem Javed, the SALAM project aims to prepare religious communities for emergencies. The program consists of Training Seminars, Security Auditing, Active Shooter Drills, and Security Team Building. It is currently active within 37 mosques within Toronto, Canada. The team consists of police officers and security professionals with backgrounds in law enforcement, emergency management and
military service.
How: This document summarizes best practices to prevent and respond to hate crime against the Muslim community, from hate crime awareness to active shooter response. It has been specifically tailored for educators to better understand how to improve emergency preparedness at schools.

Protection against Active Shooters and Security – What can you do?
In every active shooter situation, individuals made decisions and saved lives. Law Enforcement takes an average of 5-6 minutes to respond to an emergency, and being able to react effectively will allow you to save others.

Conduct a security audit

Determine room for improvement: Increasing evacuation routes, limiting entrances, having clearly visible first aid kits and barricades available. Understand the floorplan and do a quick run through before each major event to ensure that there are no issues. Having an alarm and camera system combination will allow you to determine causes of alarm should it trigger. Increase visibility from the premises: Ensure effective lighting and reduce overgrowth of vegetation. Establish clear borders. Police can more easily respond if they have blueprints of the facility and a list of staff phone numbers.

Build a Security Team

Three elements; a camera operator, a parking/patrol team on the outside and an internal team. If an attacker is seen by the patrol team, they need to radio in and alert the internal team. The internal team will either direct an evacuation or begin barricading and preparing to defend. It is crucial that police be informed immediately with as much detail as possible. Have a camera operator who can view multiple angles during an emergency and report information. Ensure that the sisters are completely involved
and are part of the security team, as some attackers have tried to exploit the sister’s entrance of mosques, sometimes wearing a niqab. Invest in tools like tactical flashlights (+250 lumens to blind an attacker in daylight), radios, panic buttons and flares. Use technology like WhatsApp as an incident log to record suspicious people and incidences. All members of the security team can have details of a particular event or
suspicious person.

If you see something suspicious, say something: Inform the Police and your community so that they are aware suspicious activity. Many criminals conduct unusual activity beforehand, sometimes scoping the site. The Quebec City Shooter visited the mosque twice and angrily argued with a staff member who did not tell anyone. In January of 2019, 4 men amassed 21 guns and 3 explosives to attack a Muslim community in New
York. They were only stopped when a high school student noticed something suspicious and reported it to the police. There have been numerous incidents in recent months of suspicious people being discovered conducting reconnaissance and running away when confronted. Report hate crimes to the police so they are aware and can deploy resources to assist and patrol. Contact local By-Law officers to deal with smaller violations and disturbances. Understand your rights. In Canada, you have a right to practice your religion without interference. Report Hate Crimes to NCCM, who are actively involved in fighting for Muslim rights across Canada.

Photo by Rayner Simpson on Unsplash

Emergency Communication

Calmly and clearly communicate that there is an emergency situation and direct
others to evacuate. Confidently provide solutions be a bastion of emotional support to others. People will look for leadership in an emergency situation, and panic is contagious. Rick Rescorla, the Chief Security Officer of Morgan Stanley during 9/11, saved 2,687 lives that day with effective communication and evacuation training.
Know your Evacuation Routes: Ensure that whenever you enter a building, you make note of emergency exits.

Run regular evacuation drills for fires within your building. During an emergency, your brain uses shortcuts and will only want to use familiar paths. Walk around the building and understand where you can get to safety. Guide others to safety and help those with mobility issues leave. Break windows if you must. During the Christchurch assault, many people were not able to escape and could not break the windows to do so. When at a safe distance, call 911 and provide as many details as possible. In the Las Vegas shooting, people who ran away were much more likely to survive than those who tried to hide. Before every major event, have personnel walk through emergency exit routes to ensure a clear space and accessibility. Routes can become congested and lead to injuries during an emergency.

Barricade and Conceal

If you cannot run away, find a place to hide, minimize noise and turn off the lights.
Turn your phones on to silent mode. Barricade the doors with whatever objects can be found. Strategically place heavy objects close to doors such as bookshelves or cabinets so they can function as blockades in an emergency. Do not open the door for anyone (use your judgement), as shooters often pretend to be police officers. Police will enter on their own. During the Parkland Shooting, many teachers broke protocol to hide
more students.


The New Zealand shooting ended when a single man decided to pick up a credit card machine and fight back, chasing away the attacker. In Norway, a 65-year old man tackled a heavily armed shooter before anyone in the masjid was injured. In a Denver, Colorado school, a gunman was pinned down by three students. A man in East London tried to attack a Taraweeh congregation with a pistol before being chased out of the mosque. From 2000-2016, the FBI found 21 shooter incidences in which a civilian stopped the shooter. Group together use the elements of surprise. Distract with tools like light, sound, and improvised weapons. It takes 1.9 seconds for the brain to react and pull a trigger. It is very difficult for a shooter to stop a crowd, and such attackers often do not have professional training.

Stop the Bleed

Promoted by President Obama to prepare the public to reduce injury via bleeding. It can
greatly reduce the lives lost during a shooting incident. It is highly recommended to invest time in the free education programs provided.

Take any clean cloth and cover the wound, applying continuous pressure until medical professionals arrive.

If the wound is large and deep, try to “stuff” the cloth down into the wound.

You need to have Active Shooter/Evacuation Drills

While sharing and learning these strategies are excellent to improve awareness, they are no substitute for being able to make decisions under stress and panic. A recent active shooter drill by the SALAM project proved this. Despite the participants (all young, strong males) having learnt these lessons beforehand and knowing they were facing a toy gun, every person failed to apply these lessons the first time around and instead assumed the fetal position. The second time, there was a great improvement in response because of the lessons learned. Muscle Memory needs to be developed in order to properly deal respond during an actual emergency. Drills are easy to set up: Have them take place in the facility, designate one person as the shooter, with the other people being security with radios/civilians. Practice different scenarios by blocking off well-used exits and changing variables. Fire drills and medical emergencies can also be practiced in much the same way.

The critical thinking abilities developed here will prove useful for other emergencies. It is suggested that projectile weapons not be utilized during active shooter drills, as this has been shown to traumatize teachers and students in the past. Encourage games like Hide and Seek that help children understand their environment better and practice evacuating and concealing.
Treat every false alarm as an opportunity to practice. Run/Hide/Defend is a flexible methodology for all types of emergencies, be it an attacker, flood, or fire.

Prevent Hate Crime

Overwhelming amounts of studies and anecdotal evidence suggests that the best way to reduce hate crime towards different ethnoreligious groups is through interpersonal interaction. Communities must make efforts to build bridges through community engagement. Forgiveness and positivity needs to be emphasized: Al Salam Mosque in Fort Smith Arkansas was subject to a vandal attack in 2016. The mosque leadership chose to forgive the vandal and provide support instead, leading to a highly positive news cycle and significant donations from different organizations. Provide solidarity and support to other organizations during times of crisis in order to build bridges and improve relationships.


Safety. Awareness. Learning. Action-based Measures.