Progressive Force Concepts Group – Training & Protective Intelligence | The Importance Of Both

In this episode:

Aaron’s journey from active military duty for the army in Washington DC and Europe and his transition to private security


Travis’ journey from a Political Science student, to the Marine Corp Military Police and his transition to private security, with an emphasis on investigative research and threat assessments


Travis’ involvement with Ontic Technologies providing ‘Machine Assisted Protective Intelligence’


A run through the PFC Group of Companies and the various functions they perform in the industry


Why they created Skypoint Concierge, a service for clients who want the benefits of security but without specific mention of security


The distinction between being a bodyguards and being a security professionals


Providing a protective service is about making the client feel comfortable


The distinctions between hard skills and soft skills


Hard skills are the ‘fun’ and critical but soft skills make you a professional in the industry and get you the cooperation you need throughout the day


Communication and being able to communicate well in writing are essential


The relationship with the client should be such that they follow your lead because they want to rather than ‘have to’


A rundown of what’s involved with Protective Services Operational Certification training


Why a lot of trainees don’t qualify at the PPS (Protective Pistol Skills) stage until the second or third time around


The problems of presenting a weapon out of concealment


The problem that led to the birth of Ontic Technologies


What protective intelligence is and how it is used


If nothing happens on an operation clients can misunderstand this to mean that protection or planning wasn’t necessary


Data gathered by the Ontic platform helps make the value of the protection and planning more visible and quantifiable


EP Nexus – A blog Travis put together about protective security. It looks at the industry from a less experienced perspective


Aaron’s and Travis’ Travel and Executive Protection Hacks


 

Who Needs a Bodyguard and How Do You Hire One? – Part 1

For those who aren’t familiar with it, the task of hiring a bodyguard or executive protection agent can be overwhelming. Knowing whether you actually need one can be a mystery, let alone knowing what to look for.

With that in mind, we recorded a couple of episodes of the Wheels Up Podcast where we covered what an executive protection agent or operative is, who might need one and how to go about selecting one. Here’s a summary of what we covered in the first episode.

At the end of this post you can also find a link to a free guide – How to Hire an Executive Protection Agent – that answers the questions in more detail. The guide also includes a cheat sheet with 37 questions you should ask before hiring a provider. We hope you find it useful and welcome your feedback.

What Exactly Is An Executive Protection Agent Or Operative?

What a layperson refers to as a ‘bodyguard’ is known by many terms within the security and risk management industry – executive protection agent/specialist/operative (EP), personal protection operative (PPO), close protection operative (CPO) or simply BG (for bodyguard).

For all intents and purposes, they mean the same thing, but in most cases, an agent or operative will have had formalised training beyond that just needed as a bodyguard. A bodyguard or CPO will generally be assigned to accompany a principal to keep physical threats at bay while an EP will take a broader view of risk management, beyond immediate physical threats.

This might include elements such as doing a risk assessment for a project or company or conducting ‘travel advances’ where a destination is reviewed in advance for risks and planning. Some companies also go further and assist clients with developing security and travel policies to utilise throughout the business.

Who Needs An Executive Protection Service?

Typically people think of high level VIPs and high net worth individuals (HNWI) with a level of fame as being those who need protection but this is often not the case.

Executive protection is tailored for individuals or teams who are not just concerned about their safety, but who also value their time highly. The ability to move about safely and swiftly can reap rewards that can save your business a loss of productivity and, in turn, increase financial outcomes.

This can include C-level executives, media or film and tv production crews, non-government (NGO) or charity organisations, mining companies with remote workers, medical evac or support teams.

Where Do I Look For An Executive Protection Operative or Company?

The best place to look for an executive protection operative is to ask for a referral from a colleague who has used one. If you don’t have access to a referred company you can search for a one via Google. Search terms to use can include, executive protection agent, executive protection companies, security company, bodyguard company, executive protection operative, bodyguard, close protection agent, close protection operative, or personal protection operative.

Is Executive Protection Only Needed When Travelling or Do You Need Protection At Home As Well?

This is assessed on a case-by-case basis. The risk an executive is exposed to will fluctuate. This level of risk will dictate the response required – e.g. if the company or individual has had recent media exposure or a specific threat has been identified, or even if a shareholder meeting is approaching, each situation will require an individual risk assessment and the response may differ. This may include the requirement for executive protection.

In What Situations Would Family Members Need Protection As Well?

Though it doesn’t happen frequently, family members, particularly children, are used as leverage against high-profile or wealthy individuals, or they may just be at risk of exposure to the paparazzi or members of the public with cameras on their phone. In some cases, they may need a 24 hour security presence, and in others they may just need monitoring.

What Would I Look For In An Executive Protection Provider?

Experience

The most critical criteria to look for in an executive protection company or risk management firm  is experience. Find out how long the provider has been in business, ask for a summary of the projects they have completed and, where possible, references of customers they have worked with.

The type of experience the operative or firm has have should also be relevant to the task you are hiring them for. For example, if you are seeking security for fly in fly out (FIFO) mining workers in Asia, an executive protection operative  with experience looking after professional tennis players touring Australia with a lack of any experience working in Asia is probably not the right fit for that particular task.

They must also have experience working in the countries you need the service provided, or at least have an affiliation with a local provider.

Training

Expect your prospective provider to have formal close personal protection or executive protection training and to be in a position to provide evidence of that. Research  the training provider to see how credible they might be and ask other providers you are considering for their views on some of the training organisations mentioned. The length of training is important. Executive Protection can not be taught in just a few days. There is a difference between qualified and competent.

Note that training as a security guard is different to close protection training so don’t accept this as evidence that a prospect might be suitable.

Licensing Requirements

Different countries and states have different laws about licensing for security and executive protection companies. If your prospective provider doesn’t have a licence for some areas you are travelling to then it’s likely they will partner with another company that does. This is common practice so don’t be disturbed if they disclose this to you.

Other Criteria

It will be worth your while to do some internet research on the provider as well. Google the name of the business and the name of the principal agent in the business. Check the News tab on the Google search listings to see if they have appeared in the news (for good or bad reasons). Check the LinkedIn profile of the principal agent to see if their authority is on display. Some security operatives  maintain a low profile so this is not an essential requirement but check to see if there are any red flags that might cause you concern.

The financial status of the security or risk management firm  may also have some bearing on the quality of service delivered. For example, if the firm requests to be paid 100% upfront, this may, in some cases, be a sign that they are under financial distress and may not be able to deliver the service to a suitable standard. It’s not uncommon or unreasonable for the security provider to request a deposit   of up to around 50%, or, if there are significant outlays for the VIP then these expenses may also be requested to be covered prior to the task, eg: a large super yacht may be required for the client – this payment may need to be made prior to the task and may need to be covered by the client rather than the security or risk management provider.

Have them explain their cancellation policy clearly to you, as well. There are obviously expenses that are incurred by the companies once they get the ball rolling, so there may be cancellation fees applicable if the project is withdrawn.

In Addition to Security Services, What Else Can We Expect of an Executive Protection Operative?

The primary role of an executive protection operative is the security/close personal protection and wellbeing of their principal. That said, “wellbeing” may also include tasks which are not always associated with “security”. As long as the safety of the principal is not compromised it’s not uncommon for executive protection operatives to conduct administrative, logistical and facilitation style tasks.

Executive protection is a service based industry and as such there are additional tasks which may be requested of the operative such as assisting with luggage, arranging tickets to events, ensuring rooms or hotels are set up to a specific standard or even organising laundry in a remote region they are in. This may mean operatives liaise with outside support elements such as personal assistants or executive assistants or it may mean they make the arrangements themselves.

Free Guide – How to Hire an Executive Protection Agent

Hiring an executive protection agent is a critical task. To help you with the process we’ve produced a comprehensive guide – How to Hire an Executive Protection Agent – which includes a cheat sheet with 37 questions you should ask before hiring a provider. You can access the free guide by signing up below.

* indicates required


And of course, we welcome any questions or enquiries on the subject via email or phone on +61 1300 651 407.

Surviving Hotel Terrorist Attacks

With hotels becoming an increasingly popular target for militant attacks around the world, the issue of hotel security and appropriate travel precautions is growing in importance for business travellers and tourists.

In one catastrophic year alone (2008), militants killed at least 54 people in a suicide bomb attack on Islamabad’s Marriott hotel, 71 people in the siege of the Taj Mahal and Oberoi hotels in Mumbai, 9 in a suicide attack on Peshawar’s Pearl Continental, and 7 in the bombings of Jakarta’s Ritz Carlton and Marriott.

Most recently,2015 saw over 60 foreigners killed in hotel terror attacks in Sousse (Tunisia), Bamako (Mali) and El Arish (Egypt) to name a few; and 2016 opened with the stabbings of tourists in a hotel in Hurghada (Egypt).

Panoptic Solutions advisers have travelled the world, often to high-risk locations, and the following is a summary of their best advice on simple measures to take to enhance your personal hotel security.

Before your trip

Know the environment into which you are travelling. It doesn’t occur to most people, but within just a 45-minute flight of Singapore or Hong Kong you can be in a completely unfamiliar environment and one that poses hidden risks. Do your own research and, if necessary, seek specialist security advice on the country you are visiting in addition to the government travel advice available on the Internet. Panoptic Solutions offers advice on threat levels in each country and specific dangers to be aware of.

If you are travelling on a business trip, check that your company has surveyed and assessed the location, including your hotel, and that the assessment is up to date. If they don’t have one, ask “why?”

While major hotel chains may offer better protection from the majority of threats, they have been increasingly targeted in many locations as they hold high value targets in the terrorist play book: westerners. Be aware that, depending on location, overall security within even high-end hotels can fluctuate from hour-to-hour, day-to-day or even seasonally. Sometimes it may be preferable to ‘fly under the radar’ and stay at a smaller hotel but, again, do your homework (or have someone do it for you).

On arrival

While it’s not strictly about hotel security, airport arrivals procedure is something that creates a lot of discussion among the advisers at Panoptic Solutions, so we’ll briefly touch on it here.

Regardless of whether it is a holiday or a business trip, if you are arranging for a driver and vehicle to meet you at the airport for the trip to your office or hotel, use only a reputable firm and insist they do not have your name or company emblazoned on the sign they will hold up in the arrivals concourse. A good alternative is to ask that the sign simply have their company logo on it, along with your initials in large, bold print.

Before you hand over your luggage and possessions to your driver, politely ask to see their company ID. The same applies with a hotel driver or shuttle you may be planning to use – there are cases on record of unsuspecting travellers entering a fake hotel shuttle bus only to be robbed, often violently, then abandoned en route.

At the Hotel

Always be aware of your surroundings. Look at how far your hotel is from the office, the airport, meetings or emergency services such as hospitals or police stations. Some of this can be done via maps and Google Earth ahead of the trip. Your company should have this information to hand if they have surveyed the location you are travelling to or you may wish to have a security adviser, such as Panoptic Solutions, assist you.

Check the security measures for vehicles entering the property. Many hotels check vehicles for explosives and also screen people entering hotels.

If a hotel appears secure to the casual observer, it has more likely to have put protection measures in place and is therefore a less attractive target to criminals and terrorists alike. The boundaries of the property should be clearly defined with physical security measures to ensure only guests or patrons can access the grounds.

If possible, identify a ‘safe haven’ somewhere close to the hotel. A safe haven is another location to which you can move to seek protection, shelter and assistance. It can literally be any place you feel you can safely go to hide and seek assistance. Your safe haven may even be on the hotel grounds but away from the main building itself – such as a guard post or caretakers hut.

Check the exits, fire escapes and routes away from the area and to your safe haven. Take the time to walk alternate exits from your floor and the hotel. Rehearse more than one way out and more than one route away from the hotel to your safe haven. This can all be done easily and surreptitiously while taking a stroll around the hotel area – if local security conditions permit.

During an attack

The following section does not represent everything you can or should do in the event of an attack upon your hotel but does provide some general guidance for you to consider that should shape your actions. Much of this will apply only if you are: a. aware of what is happening or about to happen, and b. able to extricate yourself from the initial point of the terrorist assault. That said, quick and decisive reaction to a sudden attack can save your life.

First: get away. Move as fast as you can away from the point of the attack to either your safe haven or entirely out of the area. If the attackers are shooting, stay low and move in erratic zig-zags until you are sure you are clear then move as fast, and as directly, as you can out of the area.

If you become trapped inside the hotel and are unable to clear the area or make it to your safe haven, make your way to a room, any room, and lock and barricade it from the inside. Switch off any ‘’do not disturb’ lights at the door (if an accommodation room) and turn the room lights off along with any television or radio. Draw the blinds or curtains fully. Lie on the floor and remain silent. Do not respond or open your door to anyone – even if they say they are police or other security forces. Survivor testimony from Mumbai and Mali points convincingly to the success of ‘hunkering down’. Terrorists roaming hotel corridors are looking for opportunity targets and will soon move on if frustrated by a locked or immovable door.

If you have moved to your safe haven, or have locked yourself away, do not re-emerge until you are absolutely sure security forces have the situation under control – this would usually be signalled by a number of loud hailer or PA announcements. Just because the situation is suddenly quiet does not mean the attack is over. When you do emerge, do so swiftly but with your hands above your head. Keep your hands raised until such time as you have been collected by security forces and cleared.

Conclusion

An attack on a hotel or tourist destination is a complex and chaotic situation. There are no easy answers and no ‘one best way’ to surviving such an attack. However, with a little preparation, maintaining your situational awareness and keeping a cool head you can give yourself the best chance of survival.

For more information on this subject, or to discuss your needs in relation to this topic, contact Panoptic Solutions on 1300 651 407 or info@panopticsolutions.com