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Executive Protection and Bodyguards: Myths vs. Facts

January 25, 2023

Categories: Safety, Security and Intelligence, Travel Tips,

The world can feel like a dangerous place. Whether it’s a deadly kidnapping in Nigeria, an abduction in Mexico, or a hostage-taking in Brazil, the political unrest and high-profile kidnappings that occupy front page news make it easy to feel vulnerable when traveling. It’s also compelling many business leaders to consider executive protection 

When planning an international business trip, having an extra level of security is an appropriate standard to meet your duty of care obligation,” said Harding Bush, a former Navy SEAL and senior manager for security operations at Global Rescue. “But what we think might keep us safe could put business travelers at higher risk unless you separate the myths from the facts about executive protection security details and bodyguards.” 

MYTH: Bodyguards are the same thing as executive protection  

FACT: Bodyguards are reactive to emergencies, and executive protection is proactive to emergencies. A bodyguard provides a deterrent to threat through its physical presence. Bodyguards may not be aware of impending threats or their clients’ vulnerability and cannot effectively avoid danger –defeating the very purpose of security. Responding at the time of an emergency is too late; all business objectives will be lost as the crisis becomes the immediate priority.  

“Executive Protection security details prepare and plan extensively before accompanying clients during travel,” said Bush who, while on active duty with the Navy SEALS, was a leader for the security detail for the Iraqi Interim Prime Minister and has provided private executive protection throughout the world.   

The executive protection detail consists of two elements; an advance element and the close protection element-or main body. The advance element travel ahead of the main body that travels with the client being protected.  

The advance provides risk mitigation to everything from the planned primary and alternates routes to the physical safety of the visited locations and facilities; they prepare for the safe arrival of the client and main element of the executive protection detail – this efficiency increases overall safety by increasing the level of awareness which allows the security detail and the client the capability to avoid any escalating security situation.  

The close protection element main role is to directly accompany and transport the protected persons in order to recognize and avoid any direct threats- and keeping those protected from harm by quickly evacuating from a sudden crisis.  

 

MYTH: The purpose of a security detail is to keep you safe should a crisis occur.  

FACT: The purpose of a security detail is to avoid crises. “A security detail is inherently proactive, meaning that it travels ahead of your team to evaluate the level of security of your destination and, if necessary, change plans. Of course, they can also respond to crises, but avoidance is the top goal,” said Bush, an expert in high-risk travel, cultural awareness, crisis preparedness, leadership, and operational planning. 

MYTH: Only very wealthy people need executive protection 

FACT: While high net-worth individuals are inherently vulnerable to various criminal threats, additional factors other than wealth may require support through executive protection. Some of these factors include the geopolitical environment at the travel location, the reliability of local infrastructure, and law enforcement capabilities. “Employees of large wealthy organizations may be targeted during travel to exploit or leverage the organization. Persons who are citizens of specific countries may also find themselves more vulnerable while traveling abroad,” Bush said.   

MYTH: Having an executive protection security detail makes it safe to travel to unsafe places. 

FACT: Even with an expert security detail, safety cannot be guaranteed. If the risk level of a destination requires a security detail, the traveler or their organization should consider if there are alternative options for reaching the same business objectives. This requires pre-travel planning, where the level of risk is analyzed and matched with the organization’s or travelers’ tolerance level for risk. While planning, the traveler should closely consider the balance between productivity and safety. “Executive protection can make you safer, but it never eliminates all risks,” Bush said. However, if the trip is imperative, having an executive protection security detail can significantly alleviate stress for a traveling executive, allowing them to focus on the business task at hand. 

MYTH: An armed security detail is safer than an unarmed detail.  

FACT:  Firearms are just one of the many tools used by an executive protection detail to mitigate risk, and they are not always a requirement. An armed security detail provides an enhanced level of deterrence and can save lives in an emergency. The crime level of a location is usually the determining factor in whether firearms are required. “If weapons are used, then all business objectives are immediately lost,” Bush said.  

MYTH: Clients do not need training to use executive protection; they just need to follow instructions.  

FACT: You must prepare your client, whether an executive, a scientist, an engineer, or anyone else. CSO Online states, “Teaching the executive how to remain safe, emergency procedures, expectations from the security detail, and familiarization with protocols can be a tremendous asset in an emergency.”  

The executives and their staff should communicate closely and often with the security detail leadership. Executive Protection professionals understand that plans and requirements can suddenly change and have the ability to adapt a safe plan with contingencies “on the fly.” The more information about the executives’ intentions, the more the executive protection professional can reduce the level of risk.  

Depending on the level of risk, traveling with a security detail can feel constraining, but it’s important for everyone’s safety that your team is ready to follow the procedures set in place by the security provider. These procedures will increase safety and productivity, allowing business objectives to be met in a challenging, remote, and austere location. 

Additional Tips  

Security details are not cheap, but pricing will vary depending on your destination. According to DMAC Security, you could pay around $1000 per 8-hour day per executive protection professional and about the same for each required vehicle and driver.  

Armored vehicles provide additional protection should you encounter local instability while on the road, like a riot, which can happen suddenly. Armored vehicles can also reduce the risk of injuries during a vehicle accident. Armored vehicles are regularly provided through the executive protection details.  

Driving a vehicle in a foreign country is a high-risk activity. Always hire a local driver who knows the area. Being unaware or confused by directions can bring you to a vulnerable location or make you an obvious target for attack. Make sure your driver is well-vetted and trained in security driving techniques. The driver should always remain on-site or very close by to provide the ability to separate from the consequences of an escalating incident. The driver’s responsibility is driving. A separate professional should provide the executive protection that accompanies the executive.  

“As a veteran of hundreds of security details that include dropping into a country ahead of time, assessing area security, establishing relationships on the ground, and executing the entire operation, I know the best security detail will avoid crises and, if necessary, respond if something happens,” Bush said. “But the real success is in a smooth, safe trip, where all threats have been avoided, so business proceeds uninterrupted,” he added. 

Ready to set up your security detail?  

With Global Rescue, you will have an unbeatable security partner to help you prepare before your trip and guide you on the ground once you arrive. We drop into the country ahead of time, assess the security of the area and establish relationships on the ground to ensure your detail is ready for your arrival. Our security partnerships all over the world make for seamless preparation that extends upon your arrival, when we can be the liaison between you and the local security company. That way, safety is not a concern for your executives, and they can focus on their work.  

“Remember, the purpose of a security detail is to avoid crises,” Bush said. “Of course, it’s helpful to have security in case something happens, but the real success is in a smooth, safe trip, where all threats have been avoided.” 


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