During my career as a protector of life in the Executive Protection Field, I have had the privilege of both managing and providing security coverage all over the world for many of the world’s most prominent people. These assignments not only expanded my knowledge in this industry, it also made it clear as to what our most important job is as Public Figure Protective Agents; to keep our clients safe, secure, and out of harms way at all times.
Over the past 5 years I have noticed a decline in the level of service provided and an increase in the number of individuals transitioning from law enforcement, military, and other non-government jobs to the private security sector. Yet, with this increase, there is still no required training for individuals who not only have a desire to be successful bodyguards, but also passion to be extraordinary ones. Many would think that hiring individuals who have previous experience in law enforcement would qualify as being technically and tactfully proficient for the executive protection field. This is not the case at all! Law enforcement typically are reactive. Their training focuses on responding after the fact. They are called to the scene after someone calls 911, when an alarm has already been triggered, when a murder has occurred or to investigate an assault. Simply said, they typically respond after the offense has taken place.
Executive protection (when done properly) is proactive. Our focus should be on preventing an attack, ensuring 911 never needs to be called, and there isn’t a murder or an assault to investigate. To be able to do this requires the protector to remain attentive to every single thing within eyeshot of the principal (person being protected). It takes training, focus, discipline, the understanding of human behavior, and the ability to trust your instincts. This isn’t a job for the easily distracted, the daydreamer, the naïve, or the mobile technology addict who needs to look at their phone every 5 min. To be the elite in this industry, it takes commitment, dedication, self-sacrifice, and most of all, the passion to protect those at risk.
As I mentioned earlier, there has been a decline in the service provided and I am certain it is due to the lack of required training. This being said, in an effort to assist those protectors who desire the knowledge, but lack the training, I’d like to take a moment to share four basic elements you should constantly practice, and master, while providing protective coverage to your clients. These elements will ensure your clients are provided with at least the basic protection possible. I like to call these elements LOST. Look, locate, listen and Time.
The first element requires you to constantly LOOK for information to gather. Think of yourself as an information gatherer. You should be gathering information by constantly looking at your surroundings. You should be asking yourself, do I see anyone that should not be there? Is there anyone who stands out and catches my eye? Is the person waiting here at the back door with his hands in his pocket carrying a weapon? Is there anything I am observing that makes the hair on my neck stand up? Is there anything out of the ordinary? Is anyone acting oddly? Why is that person so interested in watching me and not the event? When not providing clandestine protection, you should make eye contact with as many people as possible. Making eye contact informs the person that you see them. It also makes individuals with ill intentions uncomfortable and easier to identify.
Besides individuals, there are other things you should LOOK for. You should be asking yourself where is the nearest exit to me at this very moment. When you move, ask yourself again. You should constantly look for an extraction route. If at an overcrowded event, you should identify what parts of the room are congested, so if an emergency arises you are able to avoid that area as a route. You should also look around and identify any emergency equipment (fire extinguisher, fire alarm panel, emergency exit, etc) that might be useful in an emergency.
As you can imagine, there are many other questions that you can ask yourself if you were just looking, but the main goal of doing this is to remain in the present, remain vigilant, and to not get complacent.
Now that you are gathering information by asking yourself questions, it is time to apply the second element, which is to LOCATE the answer and the solution. This job may be difficult at times, but I assure you, there is always a solution. The way to do this is very similar to the process of Looking. However, we are now looking to Locate solutions. The best way I have found to do this is to ask ourselves “what would I do” questions. Here are a few sample questions you can ask yourself. What if someone were to jump on the stage right now and approach the principal, what would I do? What if we got in a traffic accident right now, what would I do? What if this building were on fire right now, what would I do? What if I saw a man with a gun right now, what would I do?
The reason to do this is to create a muscle memory response. For example, you have just asked yourself, what would I do if someone jumped on the stage. Your answer might have been to extract the principal from stage right to the stage left, keeping your body positioned between the principal and the jumper. Once off the stage, take the principal to the safe room and tell him/her to stay inside until I personally open the door and tell you it’s all clear. Doing this has just created a muscle memory response to that situation. Now, if that were to happen, your reaction to the jumpers action is already predetermined. Another example is, you’ve just asked yourself what if this building caught on fire right now, what would I do? Your answer might be to radio to the driver to bring the car around to the exit, grab the smoke hoods you identified earlier in the corner, place it on the Principal, grab the fire extinguisher, extract the Principal out the emergency exit, get in the awaiting car, and call 911 while departing.
Constantly asking these types of questions will create a short-term muscle memory response for you. I say short-term because these are temporary muscle memory responses. You will only respond out of muscle memory if it were to happen in a short period of time. Nevertheless, having a predetermined solution to many possible situations will not only provide you a muscle memory response, but it will also keep you composed and your heart rate down during a highly stressful situation. The reason is subconsciously you expected it to occur and trained yourself how to respond.
The third element we should constantly practice and master is LISTENing. As we gather information about our surroundings by looking, and we spend time locating solutions, we should also be listening.
First, we should be listening to the principal, their staff, their publicist, and anyone else directly involved with the principal. The reason we do this is often the principal and their team are speaking about the event and we learn important information about it and the constant changes to the schedule. For example, you may learn by listening that an individual is going to run on stage with a gift for the principal. You may also learn that the principal now wants to go directly to the reception after speaking or you may even overhear them say that you will be stage left when you will actually be positioned stage right. Listening to everything allows you time to prepare and will surely prevent unwanted and unneeded confusion.
We should also listen for information disseminated over the radio. During assignments, it’s imperative that we hear all traffic on our radios. If we cannot, we need to ensure we can before the assignment begins. This leads me to my next point. You need to ensure everyone on the assignment is disseminating information for all to hear. If you see a person acting odd near the departure area with his hands in his pocket, immediately alert every security member on your team to that individual. It will also allow the each security agent to “what would I do” the situation. When you disseminate information to the entire team, you might just learn that the item in the individuals pocket is not a weapon, but a cell phone. Learning this will allow your focus to be elsewhere.
Here are a few examples of the type of information that should be continually passed on via radio:
- Principal’s location. Remember, not everyone has a visual of the Principal and this information should be passed on to everyone in case you find the need to call 911, assist in a medical matter or call an extraction.
- When you spot a pursuer.
- When your intuition alerts you to someone or something.
- When you recognize an individual who was at the last event, which was in another state.
- When you have just denied access to an individual at the artist entrance, front door, back stage, etc.
- When you have gotten into a confrontation with an individual.
- Screaming in the vicinity
- People discussing how much they dislike the principal
These are only a few examples of Listening. Though we have a tendency to not want to tie up the radio, it is crucial that we broadcast this type of information to everyone on the assignment.
The fourth and final element is TIME. Take time to see it all. Advance every location your Principal will visit. Know the ends and out of every event, restaurant, award show, meeting, etc. Take time to drive every route you will travel with your Principal. Take time to meet staff, vendors, etc at events. If you don’t take TIME prior to an assignment to see and know it all, TIME will be your worse enemy in an emergency and you will certainly find yourself LOST.
In closing, Eastman Protective Agency has had many challenging assignments this year, and we have learned that our goal to keep clients safe and out of harms way has not only become our business, but also our passion. I hope that many of you also share our feelings and will constantly strive to provide your clients with the best protection there is to offer.Ronald D. Eastman II President & CEO Eastman Protective Agency