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by CSO Staff

Excerpt: Conducting a Protective Security Advance

Nov 29, 200914 mins
IT JobsIT Leadership

Advance Teams protect employees visiting a potentially dangerous area. This book excerpt looks at some key considerations for getting the job done.

Executives headed into an unknown area or known danger zone? Send in the Advance Team – security professionals assigned to clear the way and prevent attacks during the visit. In this book excerpt, David L. Johnson provides basic advice from his book Advance: The Guide for Conducting a Protective Security Advance (available directly from the publisher, Varro Press). This selection comes from the book’s “General Considerations” chapter.

Advance Personnel Will Precede The Principal To All Locations

This general rule of thumb means that the advance agent or team will, on an as-needed basis, precede the principal to all locations on the itinerary. Whether the principal is going to the office in the morning or on a multi-nation tour, advance personnel are responsible for preceding him, making all necessary arrangements, and establishing all required security cordons. Obviously, there is a great deal of difference between the work you do as an advance agent while taking the principal to the office and your work escorting him on a multi-nation tour.

Generally, advance agents should visit every site on the itinerary at least two times. The first time will be to conduct a site survey, determine the conditions in which you will be working, and to formulate plans to be used during the principal’s visit. The second time you visit the site will be to set up the security cordons you planned during the site survey, and execute any other required security tasks. The advance team will remain onsite for the duration of the principal’s visit and will usually continue to maintain the security capability until you are released by the Detail Leader (DL), the “drop dead” time, or other predetermined conditions have been met. Later, we will discuss these conditions and explain how to determine the “drop dead” time.

Advance Agents Will Conduct All Security Coordination And Liaison

Advance agents are responsible for contacting all pertinent “Points of ­Contact” (POCs) identified in the itinerary or by the principal’s staff in order to personally conduct all of the required security coordination or liaison with the hosting agency or staff. These POCs may include various law enforcement, intelligence, or civilian security agencies that either have involvement in the security function or may provide you with valuable information pertaining to that specific itinerary site. In addition, the advance agents will conduct liaison with the host, event staff, or other POCs who will have responsibility for ­dealing with the principal at that location. Contact with these people is made in order to gather all available information pertaining to the visit. The specific information you will need to gather during your advance visits will be explained in detail in later sections.

Advance Personnel Conduct All Site Surveys

During their first visit to an itinerary location, advance agents will conduct site surveys in order to determine the physical layout, what security measures already exist, and details such as the location of entrances, exits, bathrooms, and other public areas; where to park the motorcade; the location of areas that can be used as safe havens; the location of phone lines that can be used by both the principal and the protective service team; and all other information pertinent to the mission. These surveys help determine the resource requirements needed to establish adequate levels of security for the visit, and enable you to formulate the security plan you will implement.

Advance Team Composition Depends On The Mission

The complexity of the itinerary and the duration of the mission will dictate the number of agents assigned to the advance team. If it’s a low profile mission in a negligible threat environment, then it may be acceptable to use only a single two-man advance team. However, a two-man team is the minimum recommended for this function. By using a two-man team, the workload can be divided and the overall function can be expedited. The two-man team increases the safety factor for both agents by providing you with a partner to work with, and ensures that the mission can function in the event that one of you is not available for some reason during the principal’s trip.

Whenever possible, it is advisable to include the advance agents in the actual mission operation, but it is not uncommon for a mission to be run without them. Some details consist of only one or two persons. A “security driver” and a Protective Security Officer (PSO) may be all you have available to you. In fact, there are a lot of details where this is the configuration. I would submit that simply because there is no advance agent per se on this team, that does not negate the responsibility or need for planning, coordination and other advance efforts. In these instances, either the detail leader or the PSO will assume the role of security liaison and coordinate the security functions normally handled by the advance team. Excluding the advance team from an actual mission should be considered only in certain situations such as: operating in low threat environments, escorting a principal who does not have a high public recognition factor, or the principal is traveling in a confined and limited area with an itinerary that is closely held information known only to those within his inner circle of staff, family, and friends. However, I would note that I am not a fan of this. In my mind, our job description is to ensure the safety of the principal. Unless you have an advance element of some kind out there in front of you, you are simply trusting in God or fate that all will be ok when you get there. You are totally reactive and it is “proactivity” that we are trying to get to here. The advance agent is the most valuable person in the protective team and he or she is your “insurance” that things are indeed safe for you and your principal before you get there.

In any case, if you are not using an advance element, the principal and his staff must be informed so that they understand that a security mission that does not include the onsite services of an advance element will not be as effective without one as it would be with one.

There may be times when operating without performing every step in this manual is acceptable or even preferable to expending resources for your participation. If, for example, the principal routinely travels via a helicopter to a remote location such as a home on a remote island where the only occupants of the island are house staff and other family members, then there is no need to routinely send you to that location to conduct a site survey. You can do it once, at the beginning of your involvement with that protective operation but most of the information will remain the same for all subsequent trips. From that point on, it may well be acceptable for you to simply precede the principal to conduct a site sweep to ensure that the location is secure prior to the principal’s arrival.

If the mission is long and complex, several two-man advance teams may be needed. If you are conducting a high threat mission, you should endeavor to employ as many advance team agents as your resources allow. It is these agents who will produce the greatest return on investment of security resources by identifying the most likely problem areas, approach routes, choke points, and ambush locations. You can also identify the appropriate countermeasures most likely to provide deterrence during the mission. The effective use of advance teams can greatly enhance the overall operation by providing continuity of action and the planning foundation that is needed to ensure a smooth operation. When the itinerary is complex, several two-man teams can be utilized, but realistically, there are very few physical locations that require more than a single two-man team to adequately conduct a site survey. However, in the event the itinerary contains several locations that must be visited during a limited time period, it may be most effective to schedule multiple teams to conduct surveys and advance work using a “leap frog” technique.

For example, if you have an itinerary that takes your principal to 10 or 12 stops in one day and they all need to be advanced, you may want to have your first team conduct the advance work for the first site, your second team conduct the work for the second site, and your third team conduct the advance work for the third site.

The first advance team may then be able to conduct the advance work for the fourth site because the principal may have left the original location with enough time being spent at the intervening sites for that team to travel from its original location to the fourth site and execute the advance function prior to the principal’s arrival. Utilizing teams in this manner can often eliminate the need to create 10 or 12 teams to handle that day’s itinerary. A multi-nation trip can be handled very effectively using this technique. More often than not, resource constraints will require your highest level of management skills in order to reduce expenditures. Sometimes it may be necessary to send a single two-man team ahead of the principal to conduct the advance for the entire itinerary. That team must then be brought back to the starting location so that they can escort the principal and the Protective Services Team (PST) throughout the entire itinerary.

The decision about the size of the team and how it is to be utilized must be based on factors revealed in the threat estimate, the principal’s desires, and resource availability. The threat estimate should be the primary factor in determining advance team asset allocation. As I said previously, being able to articulate the threat and developing credibility are the most important factors when it comes to getting the resources you need to adequately conduct a thorough and professional advance.

Advance Personnel Need One Working Day In Advance For Each Day Of The Mission

Again, this is a rule of thumb and common sense should be the determining factor. If the mission is low-key to a place the principal routinely visits, the protective service team may have previously developed the bulk of the information they require to be effective. It may be a simple matter of retrieving the information you already have, updating it, and verifying a few things. Obviously, it doesn’t take as long to verify information as it does to develop it. If the mission is complex and in a high threat area, it may take more time to complete a satisfactory advance. There may be other security forces with whom you need to coordinate. You may need to get concealed weapons permits. There may be scheduled meetings to attend that involve event managers, host agencies, and law enforcement officials who are responsible for overall security arrangements. Facility entry control procedures must be identified and methods developed for your protective service agents to gain access to secured areas. If there is a formal rehearsal for an event, the advance agent should make every effort to attend. In these situations, there is no substitute for learning the sequence of events, making face to face contact with the individuals with whom you’ll be working on the day the principal visits, and becoming intimately familiar with the physical layout of the environment in which you’ll be working.

Make Maximum Use Of Checklists

Checklists can be developed to suit any function in which your principal routinely participates. Checklists are especially useful for those functions in which your principal does not routinely participate because the advance agent may have lost, or is not familiar with, the details of that particular activity. Checklists are nothing more than forms that can be developed in a “fill in the blanks” or “check the block” type format that advance agents can take along with them to the various stops on the itinerary. These checklists are created to provide you with a means of recording the information developed during the advance phase of the mission. Checklists will ensure that you don’t forget pertinent information gathered during the advance. Checklists can be developed for missions where the principal will Remain Over Night (RON), for airport arrivals and departures, for public speaking engagements, and any other function or activity in which the principal will participate.

My purpose in this book is not simply to produce another set of checklists that protective agents can use. My purpose is to encourage you to adapt, expand and modify any checklist you use in any way that enables you to better serve your principal. Several quality checklists have been written and published by other experienced professionals and serve as adequate templates you can use to create your own. By far the best and most extensive checklist in the protective services profession is the Executive Protection Specialist Handbook, by Jerry Glazebrook and Nick Nicholson, published by Varro Press. This is a convenient pocket size book you can carry all the time.

Your checklist needs to include details about your principal’s likes and dislikes or any special requirements he may have. For example, does your principal have any medical condition that requires specialized equipment such as oxygen or a heart defibrillator? Does he need to avoid microwave ovens because of his pacemaker? Include these critical items and special considerations in your checklist so you don’t forget them. Here’s another example of customizing your checklist: If your team uses satellite telephones you may have the type of equipment that needs to be pointed at the area of the sky where the satellite is located. If your satellite is in the western sky, and your control room faces east, you are going to have a big problem when it comes time to set up your antenna or dish. Make an entry of that requirement in your checklist.

When you are talking face to face with a POC who is the individual responsible for some site on your itinerary, your checklists can help you with questions during you meeting with him. Checklists will help keep you from appearing incompetent or unprofessional because you will be able to cover one subject completely before moving on to the next instead of jumping around from subject to subject with no obvious methodology. In addition, checklists form the base of the information your command post will need. Checklists also enable you to consolidate information in a form that can be readily identified with a specific site, which greatly facilitates information retrieval. You can also use checklists as an assist when you are briefing support personnel or other members of your team.

Make these checklists your own and they can help you in obtaining a ­professional result from you advance work.

Use 3 x 5 Cards

I recommend that protective service agents, if nothing else, use 3″ x 5″ cards to transcribe information contained in checklists to a writing media that is small, neat, and fits well in a suit coat pocket. Use one card for general information such as police and fire department POC names and phone numbers along with the names, call signs, or phone numbers for other protective service agents, the command post, and other security posts, such as a separate residence watch for that mission.

Information pertaining to a specific day’s activities such as the daily itinerary, POC names and phone numbers for the locations to be visited on that day, and any other information the agent deems necessary can be written on another card. You can use these readily available cards to refresh your memory, contact someone to forward information, or answer questions the principal may have about the mission.

In this modern time, use of Personal Digital Assistants or PDAs can be very helpful. Blackberry capable cellular phones and other personal computer devices let you carry a wealth of information with you. You can even download maps, diagrams, reports, spread sheets, and other information you may need to these devices.

Remember though, if you’re working in third world environments or in high risk areas, Wal-Mart may not be around the corner and you may not be able to find the correct style of batteries to run this equipment when needed. 3 x 5 cards require no power source and remain viable tools in this regard.

The point here is to make sure you have the information you need with you as you work and travel around. When your PSO or principal asks you a question, you should be able to answer it quickly and accurately. It is no good to simply have it written down back at the command post, you need it with you at all times.