About 25 representatives of local LGBTQ organizations turned out on April 5 for the first in what is expected to be a series of LGBTQIA+ Emergency Preparedness Training sessions offered by the D.C. Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency and the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs.
“It was about a two and a half to three-hour training intended for our LGBTQ nonprofits,” said Japer Bowles, director of the Mayor’s LGBTQ Affairs Office. “And we will host more trainings targeting specific audiences in our community, including our businesses and nightlife folks, particularly in the lead up to Pride month in June,” Bowles said.
In an interview with the Washington Blade on Tuesday, Bowles and Chris Rodriguez, director of the city’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency, known as HSEMA, said the training is aimed at helping LGBTQ organizations take steps to minimize potential threats of violence and to recognize behaviors by individuals who may pose a potential threat.
Rodriguez said among other things, the trainers informed participants that as nonprofit groups they are eligible for security grants offered by the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, which can be used to improve the security of buildings and meeting spaces through security cameras and improved security for entrance doors and other building components.
“We can also provide you with some of the materials we have on ways to spot a suspicious activity,” Rodriguez said in describing the topics discussed at the training session. “Some of them, for example, would be someone loitering around a facility and taking pictures of entrances and exits,” he said. “It’s not about how someone looks or the way someone dresses or the way someone talks,” Rodriquez said. “It’s about behavior that is observable.”
Bowles said among those attending the April 5 training session were representatives of the D.C. Center for the LGBTQ Community, one of the city’s largest local LGBTQ organizations that is about to move into a new, larger space in a building in the city’s Shaw neighborhood.
Rodriquez said the training session also informed participants of the role of the D.C. Fusion Center, which is one of similar entities located in all U.S. states and territories funded by the federal Department of Homeland Security. He said Fusion Centers serve as an “intelligence and information sharing office” to assess potential threats of violence, including terrorist threats.
He said the D.C. Fusion Center is an entity within the D.C. HSEMA.
Asked if they are aware of any recent threats targeting the local LGBTQ community or local LGBTQ organizations, both Rodriquez and Bowles said they cannot go into specific instances of potential threats due to the sensitivity of that information.
“But if that did happen, anytime that does happen, those threats are reviewed by intelligence analysts at the D.C. Fusion Center,” said Rodriguez, who added that D.C. police would also become involved in investigating such a threat.