Welcome to this week’s Urban Survival Newsletter, brought to you by my famous and popular SurviveInPlace.com course–a vital resource for anyone who wants to prepare for disasters and who thinks they might have to interact with other people after a disaster (yes…this means you . This week, we’re going to do the first of a 2 part series on preparedness lessons from executive protection. This is very meaty, valuable stuff and you’re going to like it.
After my first son was born, it struck me JUST how important my role as a protector was. When it was just my wife and me, I knew she could handle herself with or without weapons. But when our tiny, innocent son was born, my need to be able to protect my family went through the roof.
As a result, in addition to other empty hands and firearms training, I went through 70+ hours of formal executive protection training that helped refine my skills as a protector, a planner, and as a prepper.
If you’re not familiar with “executive protection,” it is another term for bodyguard, except that bodyguards are traditionally hired “by the pound” and executive protection specialists have skills and training WAY beyond simply throwing their weight around. The use of the phrase “executive protection” became popular in 1970 when the White House Police Force was renamed the Executive Protection Services. When they again changed their name to “Secret Service Uniformed Division” in 1977, the phrase “executive protection” went into wide use in the civilian sector.
There is a huge overlap between the disciplines of executive protection and preparedness. In fact, the job of a skilled EP (executive protection specialist) is 95-99% preparation and only 1-5% reaction. There are several lessons that have been paid for with the blood of others that we can benefit from…not only after a disaster when we’re in survival mode, but tomorrow when going to work, the store, or to see a friend.
Most of the proponents of “be your own bodyguard” are only interested in fighting, but the best professional bodyguards plan for, identify, and avoid trouble more often than they “go loud” and have to use violence or lethal force to protect their subject.
One of the best examples of this is the US Secret Service. President G.W. Bush received approximately 3000 threats per year during his presidency. President Obama received about 30 per day or 11,000 per year initially, but quickly dropped back down to “normal” levels. With all of the threats, credible threats, and planned attempts that have been made on our leaders, the last one that was semi-successfully pulled off was in 1981. (I’m not counting the airplane or rifle “attacks” on the White House as being even semi-successful)
To continue that example, we’re not going to focus on the handful of times that Secret Service had to go loud and eliminate the threat of a potential assassin…we’re going to focus instead on what they did the other 60,000 times to keep our presidents safe. Specifically, we’re going to focus on the skills and thought processes that the Secret Service and executive protection specialists use to avoid trouble for them and their subjects/protectees/principals.
Fortunately, most aspects of executive protection are not very complicated. They become complicated by the sheer number of simple things that executive protection specialists must do right. The sooner you start practicing a few of these skills and disciplines, the better you will be at them and the quicker you’ll be able to add on additional ones.
You will have one HUGE advantage over executive protection specialists—when they go on the job, it’s normally because their principal either has an active threat against them, or because they have a high profile and are a good target. When you go “on the job,” it’s to protect yourself or the ones you love. There’s no immediate threat, and you get to learn on the job.
With that, let’s look at some of the practices that bodyguards do to keep their principals from being attacked.
One of the things that bodyguards do is to look at places where they know their principal will be and find the best spots to do surveillance and/or attack from.
Let’s take your home as an example. If you can, pull up an overhead shot of your house from maps.google.com. You’ll have the option of viewing your house as a map or as an overhead picture. Choose the overhead picture option, zoom in to the 2nd or 3rd highest setting, and print it out.
You might need the help of someone who knows some computer trickery to make this happen. Since you can’t print satellite images from Google, you have to do a screen capture (Prnt Scrn), copy it into a word processor or graphics program, change it into landscape mode, and THEN print it out. It will look better if you have a color printer, but I print out on black and white and it’s definitely usable.
If you don’t want to go to the trouble of figuring out this method, you can simply take a piece of paper and a pencil and draw out your house and the houses around you. It doesn’t need to be fancy…the whole purpose of this is to train your brain.
Next, mark every place on the map that you can see from a door or window from your house. This will end up being a series of overlapping arcs. I like to shade this area in. The reason this is important is because anyone who wants to see a door or window on your house will have to be in this shaded area. From an executive protection standpoint, it means that anyone who wants to surveil or cause harm to the principal will need to be within these arcs.
The way that I use this information is that I look at our house through the eyes of a burglar or home invader. Where would I need to be to have a clear view into the house? Where would I need to be to see when the occupants are turning off lights to go to bed? Where would I need to be to see which occupants are coming and going? Where would I need to be to see whether or not they lock the door or set an alarm when they leave?
Then, if I see people in those places that I don’t recognize, I immediately take note of them. I don’t panic or get freaked out. I just take note of them. I regularly write down license plate numbers or discretely snap pictures with my phone. If they’re sitting in their car on either side of the street in front of my house, I’ll drive or walk up to them and ask them if I can help them.
Please understand, I don’t have any specific threats that I’m concerned about. I’m just aware that home invasions happen 8 times more often than house fires and I want to protect my family. I don’t invest much time or effort in doing this, but I have the peace of mind of knowing what’s going on around me and any strangers in front of our house know that they’ve been seen, acknowledged, and could probably be identified in a lineup if they decided to do anything stupid.
When dealing with predators who are simply looking for easy prey, being acknowledged is oftentimes enough to cause them to move on to another area.
Another example, is spotting someone sitting in a van right next to your car in a parking lot. I’ve helped film scenarios built around this and we found that a lone man could easily shove a lady into a van, incapacitate her, shut the door, restrain her with pre-cut duct tape or zip ties, get in the driver’s seat, and drive off inconspicuously in under 15 seconds.
So, if you’ve got a situation where you find a “creepy” person or people in a van next to your car, you can walk on by and approach from a different angle to see if you get a better feeling, get in your car from the other side, or, if possible, ask security to walk you to your car.
Alternate Exits: This is a simple one, but vital for executive protection specialists. When you go anywhere, always try to quickly pick out multiple conventional (doors) and unconventional (windows) exits. In the movie, “Fireproof”, Kirk Cameron’s character finds himself trapped in a burning house and hacks through the floor and crawls out through the crawlspace to escape. It’s not important that you don’t walk around with an axe to hack through floors—what’s important is to train your mind to see egress possibilities around you.
The reason for exiting could be a gas leak, accidental explosion, terrorist attack, fire, earthquake, robbery, active shooter, or simply avoiding someone who might cause an unnecessary confrontation.
Weather planning: A good executive protection specialist will not only take care of their own needs for inclement weather, but their principal’s as well. For our family, this means that I have stocked our cars with extra clothes for myself, my wife, and our kids. It’s nothing fancy…but it’s in place.
Redundancy and contingency plans: Redundancy and contingency planning are key principals, whether you’re doing executive planning, running a company or key project, doing activities in the back country, or just day to day life. Here are some specific areas that executive protection specialists focus on that you can benefit from.
- Contingency meetup plans. As an example, “If we get split up, we’ll come back to this location every top-of-the-hour and half-hour and stay here for 5 minutes. If we don’t meet up after 3 hours, we’ll meet at home.”Or, “If an earthquake or similar event happens and we don’t have communications, I’ll pick up our son from school and we’ll all meet at home. If neither of us can get home or it’s untenable, we’ll post a note if possible and meet at Joe’s house. If that’s untenable, we’ll post a note if possible and meet at church.
- Contingent communications plans. These could be cell phones, radios, whistles, or “If local phone service goes down, we’ll both get in touch with your sister (in another part of the country) by all means possible (phone, voice mail, text, email) and use her to get back in touch with each other
- Have Primary, Alternate, Contingent, and Emergency (PACE) routes to your destination
- Have PACE plans for medical care. I know where the hospitals are in my city. I also know where private surgical centers are, veterinarians, fire departments (Paramedics), veterinary supply stores, EMT supply stores, and basic drug stores like Walgreens…particularly in the parts of the city where I spend the most time.
- When I travel to other cities, I spend about 5-10 minutes before I leave and find where these resources are located near where I’m going to be. I probably should memorize addresses, and phone numbers and/or write everything down like I would on a protective detail, but simply having a picture in my mind of where facilities are puts me WAY ahead of the curve.
On the topic of medical care, EPs who have medical and especially advanced trauma training are in higher demand and get paid more. Likewise, get all of the medical training you can justify and keep the supplies you need close at hand.
I don’t spend a ton of time on this. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found that the simpler I keep my habits, the more likely I am to keep them as active habits.
Match the baseline. Everywhere you spend time has a “normal” or “baseline” look. Taking on this look is called, “becoming the ‘grey man’” and the discipline is called “cover for status.” At a dress ball, it may be formal wear. At the beach, bikinis, Speedos, and other swim attire are the norm. At a park in the summer, it might be shorts and light weight shirts. At that same park in the winter, it might be heavy coats, hats, and gloves. Wear any of these four outfits at any of the other three settings and you’ll stick out like a sore thumb.
As a note, this can happen in a situation where you have to stop at a gas station on the way to a formal event, which, is another reason to plan ahead as often as possible.
In executive protections, there are basically two ways that you can go…overt and covert. Said another way, either look intimidating or look invisible by matching the baseline.
As a bodyguard for yourself or your family, it’s normally better to be the grey man and stay invisible. You can do this by not wearing excessive tactical clothing, using your peripheral vision to scan the room, and not acting like you’re on edge all of the time. Just try to look as lost and confused as everyone around you. If a situation arises where you need to let someone know that you’re “switched on,” then that is still easy to switch into that mode.
Cover for status is also an important tool for identifying threats. Who doesn’t belong? Does the kid with the droopy pants and the puffy coat and the crooked ball cap smoking in front of the 7-11 at noon on July 4th fit in? Or is there a possibility that he’s looking for a victim?
“Cover for action” could be called the twin sister of “cover for status.” Cover for action is having your appearance match your actions. Climb a utility pole with shorts and a t-shirt on, and someone will probably call the cops. Get out of a utility van wearing jeans, work boots, a tool belt, hard hat, and climbing gear and nobody will even remember seeing you climb the pole.
Ask someone their date of birth, social security number, sexual habits, and other private medical questions in a mall, and you’ll get slapped. Put on a nametag and hand someone a detailed survey on a clipboard with a 10c bic pen tied to it in a doctor’s office and they’ll tell you more than you REALLY want to know.
If you notice people who don’t have a cover for their actions, take it as a sign to pay closer attention to them.
Next time, well cover more, including funnels and channels, obfuscation, one of my favorite improvised weapons that are legally REQUIRED to be everywhere that you can’t have a “weapon”, driving, and more. In the meantime, if your interested in learning more strategies to incorporate Executive Protection into a preparedness lifestyle, I’d suggest that you check out my SurviveInPlace.com Urban Survival Course. In addition to covering all of the basics of preparing for disasters, it also goes into some advanced topics such as tactical movement to and from barter/trade situations after a breakdown in civil order. The course is a true treasure for people ranging from newbie “preppers” to lifelong Special Ops guys trying to pass on a lifetime of experience to loved ones. To learn more, check it out at http://surviveinplace.com
What are your thoughts on “living as a bodyguard”…either of yourself or of familiy members? Are you currently or have you done EP work in the past? How has it carried over to your everyday life and what lessons can you share with others? Let us know by commenting below.
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God Bless & Stay Safe,