Executive Protection 101

Article: Executive Protection 101We live in times when the physical security of individuals cannot be taken for granted, particularly when with regard to the safety of a Very Important Person (VIP) or someone else whose public, private, corporate, or social status tends to elevate their risk and compromise their well-being.

Executive protection is a professional field of practice that stems from the larger scope of security. A large global corporation, for example, will likely operate a division or department dedicated to different aspects of safety, which may include loss prevention, information technology safety, disaster recovery, and physical security; it is within the latter aspect, that we can find facility guards and executive protection specialists.


Understanding Executive Protection

In essence, executive protection is a security discipline that aims to safeguard individuals and their immediate, personal interests. Executive protection is sometimes referred to as close personal protection or VIP security.

As a general goal, executive protection aims to provide safety to the most valuable assets of any corporation, family, community, or society: human life.

The services of executive protection specialists can be retained by means of corporate, family or personal decisions. In some cases, specialized security firms may hire executive protection specialists to provide to high-profile clients. These specialists identify the risks and dangers that may arise in certain situations, and they are tasked with providing the safest course of action to keep clients or principals safe and sound.

Furnishing safety to an individual who requires executive protection is more complex than simply making sure they are still alive at the end of the day. Physical safety is one thing; other risks may involve kidnapping, theft, espionage, fraud, confidence scams, victimization, public disgrace, insulting situations, intimidation, etc.


Types of Executive Protection

The two main categories of executive protection include armed and unarmed. To a certain extent, these two categories will dictate the minimum cost to the client and the lower limit of compensation that the specialist should receive.

Within the two main categories, the executive protection specialists who have certain skills can be retained by clients who require specific levels of protection. These additional skills could translate into higher pay. One example could be an American rock band contracted to play a concert in Veracruz, Mexico. If the executive protection specialist retained for this mission speak Spanish and have valid passports as well as international driving licenses, they should be receive higher compensation.


Comparing Executive Protection Specialists to Bodyguards

To those who are not familiar with the field of security, executive protection professionals seem to fulfill the role of bodyguards; this is an incorrect assumption that merits a careful explanation.

Just about anyone can be a bodyguard. Let’s say a hip-hop artist is concerned that he has been getting scary emails from unstable fans, and thus he asks a friend who served a couple of years in the Army to be his bodyguard for an unscheduled club appearance in a rough neighborhood. This is an instance that of someone being a very good friend; it is not a professional situation.

In the example above, a bouncer working at the club where the hip-hop artist is due to appear could also fulfill the role of bodyguard for the evening. A bodyguard is not a professional; he or she is essentially someone who agrees to be a human shield. An executive protection specialist, on the other hand, is a skilled professional who can perform threat assessments, gather intelligence, coordinate transportation and communications, provide emergency medical work if required, and even handle public relations to a certain level. An executive protection professional may have looked into the threatening email messages received by the hip-hop artist to determine if they may be a ruse for another situation; for example, thieves may be looking to steal equipment or paparazzi may want to get embarrassing photos.

VIPs and other individuals who hire casual bodyguards instead of executive protection professionals may leave themselves open to liability. In the example above, if the bodyguard mistakenly lashes out at fans who may have wanted to get autographs, the hip-hop artist may end up on the receiving end of a lawsuit. As certified professionals, executive protection specialists are able to handle their own legal affairs separately from the client if such is the agreement when their services are retained.


Essential Duties of Executive Protection Specialists

Executive Protection agent with earpieceExecutive protection is a matter of individual security, safety and well-being. Physical security is just one part of the protection equation; the clients or principals may also require asset protection and safeguarding of intellectual property.

Let’s say the CEO of a smartphone manufacturing firm needs to be escorted as he travels to cyber security conferences on two different cities. This client will travel with prototype hardware that requires physical safekeeping, and he may also be communicating with associates via mobile devices. The primordial mission will always be to make sure that the CEO is safe so that he can be relaxed when he speaks at the conferences, which could be teeming with corporate spooks and hackers interested in the client’s prototypes as well as his communications.

In the aforementioned CEO scenario, the executive protection specialist may be entrusted to carry the hardware prototypes in a locked suitcase. He or she may also have to sweep hotel rooms and conference spaces with an RF signal detector; furthermore, the specialist may monitor apps that scan for mobile hardware or rogue femtocell equipment that could mimic a wireless telephony signal. The specialist may also have to handle the traditional threat of people who get too close to eavesdrop on mobile phone conversations.

Bad guys are always a concern; nonetheless, executive protection specialists also have to be ready to act in case of fire, flooding, earthquakes, vehicle accidents, medical emergencies, cancelled flights, civil disturbances, blackouts, and other risky situations. In some cases, a principal could be a celebrity that is not ready to face reporters at a certain time; this may call for handling of the media. In a different situation, the client will need to meet with the media in secret; this will require a special escort with evasive transportation arrangements.


Becoming an Executive Protection Specialist

All prospective executive protection specialists must go through basic instruction that teaches them the basics of their profession. Some candidates will bring considerable skills and experience to the table; they may be former military or law enforcement professionals, or else they may have been corrections officers or security guards. These former occupations have valuable skills that translate well to the executive protection field, but they will still require the basic instruction of at least 40 hours in an accredited school.

All executive protection academies will feature classroom and field instruction, and they will require course satisfaction in the form of a final written exam with a practical module. In some states, a licensing and compliance board will require specialists to obtain a license and go through compliance steps for the purpose of keeping their license up to date. Additional training and licensing is mandatory for armed specialists.


Executive Protection Careers and Job Description

Whether licensed or not, executive protection experts can render their services in a various environments. Many choose to work as freelancers or to be their own bosses; others are hired by government agencies, defense contractors or major security outfits. Celebrities in the worlds of entertainment and sports routinely require executive protection, and the same goes for high-profile CEOs. Others who may require these services are foreign dignitaries whose own protective details could not enter the country, and also feature journalists who travel to dangerous parts of the world in an effort to keep us informed about the geopolitical reality.

Executive protection careers can be a good fit for males or females; in fact, women are often preferred because their lower profile is ideal for stealth situations. In general, this is a job that requires candidates to be in optimal physical and mental health; this means that they must be rational and sharp so that they can make sound decisions to keep clients safe.


Executive Protection Compensation and Salary

This is a well-remunerated profession due to the intrinsic value that its services provide to clients. Starting rates for unarmed executive protection specialists start at $25 per hour and can be adjusted upward to $50 per hour when certain skills are required; for example, clients who need to be escorted abroad and who require assistance with foreign language translation will expect to pay more for the services they need. Armed specialists start at $50 per hour and can be adjusted upward to $100. The minimum compensation is equivalent to eight hours per day even if the mission only lasts a few hours.


Some Details of the Executive Protection Course Curriculum

Driving Skills: Most clients will require road transportation, which means that specialists must be handle vehicles in a tactical manner. Course material includes the evaluation and understanding of vehicle physics, handling speed, weight transfer, and how drivers typically deal with reaction time and performance issues. In terms of protective driving, avoidance and evasion drills must take into consideration roadblocks, ambush situations, chase scenarios, and flank attacks. Other essential skills related to road vehicles include emergency response, field repairs, and safety route planning.

Protection Equipment: When it comes to executive protection, there are three essential categories of gear that get the job done: communications, first aid and intellect; the latter being the most important. Some of the equipment that must be mastered by executive protection specialists include: first-aid and trauma kits, smartphone or satellite phone, scopes, smoke hoods, blades, vehicle and household repair tools, survival kits, adhesives, and protective weapons such as batons, blades, pepper spray, etc.

Firearms: Most executive protection specialists will not use firearms in the course of their duties; however, some clients and major security agencies will require them. Concealable handguns are the most ideal; only a few high-risk situations such as combat zones will require assault weapons. Sharpshooting is a useful skill insofar as understanding ballistics; however, close-quarters shooting and tactical firing of handguns are the most adequate for executive protection purposes. It goes without saying that armed specialists should visit the range at least twice a year, and they must comply with their state’s firearm regulations. In the case that a mission requires a team of armed specialists to be retained, they should all carry the same weapons as well as the same type and amount of ammunition. Needless to say, team missions should include choreographed rehearsals and drills that include fields of fire and shooting formations.


Getting Started in Executive Protection

To have an affinity for executive protection is to have a penchant for ensuring the safety of others. To this effect, firefighters, lifeguards, paramedics, and police officers tend to be good candidates for this job.

The core executive protection skills can be learned and applied by just about anyone who completes the basic course. Special skills and client referrals are what set professionals apart. Foreign language proficiency is key in this field; other valuable skills include: emergency medical and lifesaving, commercial driving, martial arts, computer security, and public relations.

The most successful specialists can expect to make quite a bit of money if they can market their special skills and put them to work. Clients who are satisfied with the level of protection received tend to be very appreciative of specialists who understand what it means to be discrete. Although the individuals who retain executive protection services tend to be very private, they are not shy when it comes to giving referrals and recommendations of executive protection professionals.

In the end, executive protection specialists should not be surprised if they strike long-lasting, professional relationships with their clients. To this effect, specialists should be willing to travel at a moment’s notice for the right clients. This also means keeping their passports currents and their backgrounds clean.

Successful specialists are also those who never stop learning and sharpening skills that can serve their clients and themselves. A specialist who is ranked in tae kwon do, for example, should consider signing up for Krav Maga, the self-defense system of the Israeli Defense Forces, which emphasizes using opponents and the environment for protection instead of aggression. Not only would Krav Maga enhance the skills of the specialist, it would also keep him or her in shape for the benefit of clients.

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