By Michael Stroberger
December 1, 2000
Reprint Protection Officer News - Fall 2002
To the uninitiated, or those with only limited contact, Executive Protection is an almost mystical topic, filled with images pulled from popular movies, works of fiction and news accounts. In truth, the inner working of Executive Protection are not complicated, they are simply an extensive series of details which must be double-checked to ensure that possible hazards have been addressed. From the point of view of the property-level security professional, the advance work of a protective detail can seem intrusive, their requests confusing or difficult to carry out without considerable difficulty or even simply useless. Despite this, if the detail is staffed with dedicated professionals, each request has a specific purpose, and is designed to support the overall effort of protecting their principal (protectee).
The most basic goal of any protective detail is to avoid / reduce hazards. These hazards could result from intentional human actions, natural disasters, accidents or even medical conditions. For each type of hazard, or specific hazard, there will be some obvious, and some less obvious, strategies for mitigating the hazard.
In some cases, the mitigation strategy is in place well in advance, and is a continuous effort. This applies to situations such as the carrying of medication used to treat specific medical conditions which the principal is known to suffer from regularly, or which could be life threatening if they do occur. In most cases, these are not a specific concern for the protective unit of a property, but are handled by the unit which travels with the principal.
From the property point of view, there are many steps which can be taken to anticipate the needs of an outside protective detail. The taking of these steps will not only smooth out the process of interacting with an outside detail, they will prove the level of professionalism which the property security force operates under. If handled with care, and a systematic approach, this is an ideal opportunity to prove the value and skill of a protective unit, both to the outside protective detail, but also to their own management structure.
You know your property better than they do. Be prepared to walk the property with the leader, or advance person, of the protective detail. They will be interested in such information as: where are the access points, and when and how are they secured; which rooms will they be utilizing and where are they located; what fire systems do you operate; what hours of coverage and staffing levels does your protective unit maintain; who will be on property, other than your unit; what types of surveillance equipment do you operate, and what areas does the system cover. This is a very short list, and obviously not inclusive of all topics which will be of interest. The basic concept is: where will we be, how do we get there and back and how will we be accessible to others during this time frame. Look at it from this point of view, and most of the questions can be anticipated prior to their arrival.
You know the geographic area better than they do. In most cases, dignitary/VIP protective details travel with the principal. As a result, they often work in areas, cities and countries other than their base of operations. This gives you the advantage of having a much better understanding of the geographic area. They will, in most cases, call upon this knowledge for reference materials. They will usually need to know: Areas of road construction; nearest hospital; nearest police station; nearest fire department; security units operating in nearby buildings. Again, this is the briefest of lists, and by no means inclusive of even a small portion of the information a good, professional detail will require. Be prepared to answer these questions, or at least have a contact who can.
You know the difficulties of the area better than they do. Although it is available through proper channels and sources, the area crime rate, types of crime and areas of higher crime activity will probably not be known to the protective detail. Be prepared to give them a brief explanation of the current trends, as you know them.
At my property, we developed an "Executive Protection Guide," which we allow outside units to read through, as part of their advance work. No person is permitted to make copies of the content of the guide, but a duplicate of the cover sheet, with contact names and direct telephone numbers is provided. This guide offers detailed descriptions of our building, the areas around us, the local law enforcement and fire departments, my staff and operation and the security systems currently in place. This guide was compiled over a period of several months, based on a database of questions which we obtained through interaction with outside protective details as they arrived at our property. As a result of the process we used to compile this listing, our guide includes information which not every unit requests; such as the building materials used in the floors and walls, and relative thickness of those materials. While these are not common questions for such details to ask, when encountered in the reading of our guide, most have been very appreciative of the information. Some, in fact, have added questions to their pre-formatted advance information list, based on what we have chosen to provide for them, prior to their arrival.
In addition to the proactive steps described above, it is also important to note that you can become very involved in the actual operation of the detail, while it is on your property. Often, I and selected members of my staff become almost an auxiliary part of larger protective details, performing such duties as perimeter security in the area of events and movement of the principal; securing and inspection of rooms; screening of employees who will have access to specific areas; crowd control and liaison with management. One of the key aspects which the host protective unit can provide is additional legal rights, as agents of management/ownership. While the executive protection detail has a certain set of legal rights, stemming from the basic right to defend one's self, the protective unit from the property has a vast set of additional rights, including such things as the ability to restrict access to third party persons. Again, being prepared for, and involved in, such aspects reflects a strong level of professionalism and skill.
With the election year in motion already, in addition to the regular travels of executives and celebrities, some types of businesses are obviously more prone to visits than others. This does not, however, rule out the possibility of such a visit, and proper planning should be an issue for all protective details. Be prepared for such possibilities, and you will present a professional image. Fail to prepare, and this, too, will be noted.