On March 25, 2020, CTG Intelligence hosted an online conference on Protecting the Principal During COVID, which focused on how to operate effectively as a protection specialist during the highly unpredictable and unprecedented pandemic environment.
The event was part of a special series of online seminars designed to provide security professionals with actionable information during the COVID crisis. The events were co-sponsored by the British Bodyguard Association (BBA) and all BBA members received free access to attend the seminars as part of their membership.
During the conference speakers and attendees shared opinions, thoughts, and suggestions for how to operate as a close protection specialist in the current pandemic situation. They also gave insights on how the security industry would be impacted by the Corona virus going forward and what changes to expect in the operational landscape.
Phelim Rowe, Director of CTG Intelligence, was on hand to open as the host of the conference. The panelists had a wealth of knowledge and skillsets and came from varying backgrounds and experience in the security industry. Each had years of real-world experience in the protection and/or medical space and provided valuable insights for attendees of the conference. Among them were:
- Krisztian Zerkowitz, Head of Protective Operations, Auriex Global
- Paul Steward, Close Protection Paramedic, Medical and Mental Health Trainer, Platinum Oak
- Dr. Christopher Sidford, Founder and Medical Director, Black Bag
- Kris Coleman, CEO, Red 5 Security
Each speaker had years of real-world experience in the protection space and provided valuable insights for attendees of the conference. The experts engaged in lively discussions and provided perspectives on a variety of topics such as:
- Current gap in medical skills in the industry;
- Contagion medical planning & prevention;
- Conducting risk assessments & operational planning for a Principal in lockdown/quarantine;
- Whether there will be a increased need for medically qualified or trained CPs; and
- Whether CPs should now rush to get tactical medical training as a result of the pandemic?
Conference attendees walked away with actionable insights on how to conduct themselves in the current close protection operating environment. Some takeaways and key lessons learned on protecting the principal during a pandemic were:
Conducting Risk Assessments
From an operational perspective, CPs need to go back to fundamentals and apply the golden rules of protection planning and risk assessments to medical scenarios. For instance, from a strategy perspective, many HNW bought ventilators only to later discover that they would never be delivered due to shortage. So, it’s important to think how do we improve our planning and strategy from the outset to account for the unexpected? Scenarios and risks should be assessed as always in a well thought out threat matrix. Going out and buying ventilators is like “going out to buy a gun. There has to be some intelligence and expertise behind it with the training and proper use, otherwise it’s futile,” explained Krizstian Zerkowitz. Also keep in mind that the entire threat assessment changes during lockdown or quarantine. For example, risk of threats from the outside world will go down, such as crime. However, internal threats such domestic violence, exposure to contaminated staff, or privacy breaches goes up.
CPs should adopt an ethos that says “everyone is sick” so as not to underestimate people who look well because of lag time in contagion. Dr Christopher Sidford advocates that “Some obvious common sense goes a long way.” Good hand washing, surface cleaning, in and outflow to the residence must be considered a medical risk. For instance, good security managers should conduct a medical history and screening on everyone who comes in to find out if they’ve suffered from any symptoms in the past few weeks. For those who are allowed in the parameter, everyone should be screened multiple times for fevers, i.e. twice a day. It also helps to be meticulous to document this daily.
Another thing to consider is how do you bring more operators on in an instance where self- isolation is order of the day? In such a scenario, it would benefit everyone if movements are limited as much as possible. Where movements occur, clear protocols and consistent standards need to be put in place for entry and exit into the residence. And these guidelines need to be widely communicated to the entire staff and team. Finally, consider putting other safeguards in place like spreading the team around the perimeter to ensure no gaps and where necessary rotating bodies (i.e. every 2 weeks) for continuity of ops.
Medical Skills Gap & Training
Principals and clients now see the need, more than they ever have, for some kind of medical setup within the protection team. For instance, it may be hard to access reliable medical facilities in various locations. The facilities in Manhattan will be very different than those that are available in Cape Town. So, this has heightened the need and awareness of proper medical arrangements. Therefore, medical and health risk must be embedded into a holistic overall risk assessment. It’s not all about crime, terrorism, or IT/Cyber. Security managers must include medical and health risks, including assessing the decision of whether to include an embedded medic within the team. In terms of additional medical training, getting additional skills is always a good thing and sometimes even necessary in the case of protecting a Principal with serious health condition such as heart attack. But, in general, and as Paul Steward reminds us, CPs should keep in mind that there is a limit to the efficacy of virtual, online training in the medical context because learning medical skills requires practical, hands on experience.
Preparation Always Eases Panic
For the agile and adequately prepared CP, the number one factor is preparation and intelligence is key. Anticipate where you are going, what you are doing, and know how to advise the Principal in various locales and situations. Kris Coleman issues the warning that for Principals who are not traditionally bound to borders, this can be challenging. For this reason, CPs must speak up even when it’s tough and give sound advice. The more you are prepared, the better you can advise your Principal. Enhance your own understanding and skills. The more you know, the more you can share with your Principal. Always cite reputable sources to back up any recommendations you make, like the Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organization or other European bodies. Be diligent in staying knowledgeable with the latest developments so that your suggestions are well-informed and credible to your Principal. Bottom-line is this: Pandemic or not, being prepared means being trained, having the right resources, and planning for the eventualities and likelihoods from the start to ease panic.
These are only a few of the gems the speakers covered. You can access the entire discussion here > Watch Now
The BBA team would like to thank CTI Intelligence, the esteemed panel of experts, and conference attendees for making this virtual conference a huge success. It is events like this that highlight how we, as close protection specialists, can rally behind our industry and come together to share advice, lessons learned, and pass on valuable suggestions to conduct ourselves more effectively during these challenging times.
Protecting the Principal in a Pandemic
By: Jon Moss
Jon fills dual roles as part of the team that runs the British Bodyguard Association, the leading organisation for protection specialists, and is the Managing Editor of the Circuit Magazine. For more information go to: www.the-bba.org.uk