Recognising attacks before they occur or meeting them in their earliest steps constitutes an essential component of safeguarding high-net-worth families and individuals. Prevention rather than reaction is the optimal solution for an executive protection detail operating in either routine or dynamic and changing environments.
This “pre-recognition” of an incident is sometimes known as a “combat indicator.” More commonly, specialists refer to it as “situational awareness.” Indicators can be as evident as verbal threats from a potential assailant or more challenging to spot to the untrained eye. That could mean an overdressed person on a hot summer’s day, or a car parked at an odd angle, or an out-of-place location.
An executive protection detail well-versed in its trade is constantly observing for indicators and warning signs. To recognise an attack before, or just as it unfolds, is the difference between a delayed response and a proactive counteraction.
But what is an executive protection detail? Broadly speaking, an EP detail is a team of security and risk mitigation specialists who aim to ensure the safety of individuals and groups, including:
- Executives and CEOs,
- Political figures,
- Professional athletes,
- Wealthy individuals,
- Musicians and performers, and
- Very Important Persons (VIPs).
Due to their elevated personal risk profile, these individuals, their families, and entourage require reliable protection to remain productive and at ease.
For these reasons, an executive protection detail employs tactics and strategies to anticipate, plan, and prepare for any eventuality.
An attacker or intruder typically hopes to meet little to no resistance. Assuming to be the aggressor in the confrontation, the potential malefactor envisions catching the EP detail off guard.
But since violent persons are dangerous by nature in any circumstance, early attack recognition can often be complex. That statement especially holds true if they are familiar with certain close protection and executive protection techniques.
To deter or avoid an attack before it converts into physical aggression, first and foremost, the EP detail must recognise it. That is, as opposed to merely reacting to a fully-fledged assault. Vigilance and discipline by the EP team may be the first layer which any assailant observes and may decide to find a “softer target.”
The Principal’s Role
In some cases, the intended target may experience a fight-or-flight response. That is a reaction of the sympathetic nervous system, whereby a large amount of adrenaline releases into the body. Unfortunately, one of the side effects of this response, particularly for those who have little training, is to freeze up.
For that reason, a well-run and mentally aware executive protection detail should plan for this reaction. Clear and calm communications with the principal will assist in this instance. Planning and preparation are paramount for any executive protection team.
For example, a straightforward yet valuable technique to consider in terms of proactive counteraction is pondering about “what-if” scenarios or “actions on.” Unfortunately, a failure to be ready for all possible events can, at worst, prove deadly.
Apart from the role of the executive protection detail, the principal ― i.e., the person on the receiving end of protective services ― also has a part to play. Paying attention to that “gut feeling,” listening to their inner voices, feelings, and intuitions and conveying those to the security team is sometimes just as helpful as many other techniques.
That said, a quality EP team will fall back on to their training rather than rely solely on the principal. They will also understand the significance of planning and training and the philosophy that “You don’t rise to the occasion. Rather, you simply fall back to your level of training.”
How Local Support Tips the Scales
Security experts argue that local knowledge and local support are invaluable in any operation. Therefore, managers and officers should always consider a few items when travelling to Australia or Asia from a different country or continent. Most notably:
- Difference in exchange rates, time zones, units of length or distance, and units of weight (such as miles, kilometres, kilograms, pounds),
- Vehicle selection for the Australian and Asian landscapes, possibly involving 4X4 vehicles,
- Local advances prior to the arrival of the foreign EP team to clarify the roles and responsibilities of the hotel staff, event staff, and logistics staff,
- Laws, customs, regulations, and firearm licensing.
For instance, foreign EP agents do not have legal permission to work as security operatives or agents within an Australian-based close protection program.
Engaging a local licenced and reputable security company that specialises in executive protection and then providing oversight and management as an “adviser” is permitted without an Australian security licence.
That may sound strange to some. But that is precisely the reason why having access to local knowledge and support could prove essential. Not the least because any local operation may fail if the suitable local operators are not contacted on time.
Proper Size of an Executive Protection Detail
A question that security companies get asked frequently is this: How many members does my protection team need? Unfortunately, the answer is not straightforward.
In fact, an executive protection detail can be as small as one person. However, it may include many more individuals. Depending on the assignment, an EP detail could consist of:
- Paramedics and medics,
- Security driver,
- Escort team,
- Advance Team/Party,
- Personal protection officers (PPOs) and other roles.
Suppose a security assignment solely involves travelling from point A to point B. In that case, pending the risk profile and a threat assessment, perhaps hiring ten protection officers would be excessive.
Additionally, they may have trouble blending in with their environment. And this technique constitutes one of the most desirable qualities of an EP detail. In contrast, a complex security assignment with multiple venues and meetings may require a larger team with several skills.
There are times where, in order to complete a mission, protective agents/operatives must blend in, become part of the crowd and remain inconspicuous. This way, they can spot gestures that could reveal the early stages of an attack.
Still, there is one more type of blending in that many principals favour. It entails a near-invisible posture in the presence of the client and their surroundings. They need to dress and behave in line with the current environment or assignment. All this implies quick adaptation to dynamic situations.
Note: Boutique security companies need to be flexible to travel the globe. Those intending to partner up with Asia-based or Australian security companies typically ask for EP details sensitive to diverse environments. That entails security specialists who can swiftly shift from addressing high-profile CEOs in the board room to talking with their kids. The language and tone must suit the environment.
Acting on Threat Assessments
The most solid level of protection means offering appropriate security and being as non-intrusive as possible toward the everyday lifestyle of the principal, their family, and entourage. The key to achieving this goal is conducting threat assessments, the main elements of which include:
- Identifying a potential perpetrator,
- Assessing the risks of violence that the perpetrator presently poses, and
- Managing the subject and risks that they present to the target.
As security author Peter Consterdine infers in his book, The Modern Bodyguard, “Once prepared, the assessment is not concluded or static. Rather, it forms the basis of a dynamic, ever-changing assessment as more current information comes to light. A threat assessment can be as broad-based as simply the political stability or otherwise of a whole country. Or conversely, it can be as narrow as the threat posed to a client by simply one person.”
In fact, the principal can be at risk from various individuals and entities. Moreover, some of the following motivations may be driving their actions:
- Financial gain,
- Political and religious beliefs,
- Personal vendetta,
- Competitional, and
- Motives of mentally disturbed individuals and those with a sense of grievance.
A threat assessment helps an EP detail establish the facts, motivations, and situations pertaining to the safety of their principal.
This article explored avenues of prevention and reaction in the everyday work of an executive protection detail. As a result, we have established that preventive measures coupled with determination can increase the principal’s level of safety and security.
Practical points to explore in day-to-day operations include:
- Pondering what-if scenarios and planning “actions on,”
- Considering the right size of the EP detail,
- Practising de-escalation,
- Estimating and rehearsing for the use of violent force when necessary, and
- Preparing a threat assessment.
In the 21st century, media are jam-packed with reports of violent acts against high-level individuals in all industries and countries. Yet, many of them seem to be unaware of the looming threat and impact of crime, terrorism, and other types of dangers. This article assists in outlining and clarifying how EP details perform their daily duties. But also what it means to be under their protection.
Companies like Panoptic Solutions support individuals and organisations to enhance productivity and peace of mind by offering unmatched executive protection services.