If you don’t normally have a personal or executive security plan – or even if you do – in this issue Christian West, founder and CEO of AS Solution, shares six case studies that show how you can heighten protection for you, your employees and customers on short notice.
By Christian West, CEO, AS Solution
1. Suddenly Wealthy
When an entrepreneur taps a gold vein in the burgeoning digital economy, valuations can skyrocket overnight – as can personal wealth and public prominence. And along with increased prominence can come higher threat levels. We work with many highly successful founders who have had to ramp up personal security measures from one day to the next and build protection programs that quickly evolve with changing needs.
The challenge: Sudden wealth leads to greatly increased prominence, new vulnerabilities, and the need to mitigate risk The principal, the young founder of a young startup, suddenly found himself in the news as his company’s valuations rose astronomically. Like most other people in his situation, personal security was the furthest thing from his mind until unwanted incidents began to pile up and his board started talking about the need for protection. With few employees, the company had neither a security department nor any experience with executive protection. So they turned to us to learn more about their options and make sure the principal was not taking unnecessary risks.
The solution: Quick reaction to manage the most vulnerable situations – and a flexible protection strategy to meet evolving needs The founder traveled frequently and was headed for a city that even non-experts knew was a high-risk destination. Could weprovide protection for this trip? We quickly arranged for a security driver and an executive protection agent that could get the principal around the city in question discreetly, efficiently, and, of course, safely. Things went well. This resulted in more secure travel support for more trips as well as event security. Discussions about deeper involvement ensued, leading to the creation of a personal protection strategy based on an analysis of pertinent risks, threats and vulnerabilities (RTVA) – as well as the company’s young culture and the principal’s personal preferences.
The results: An iterative approach that grew to comprise comprehensive risk mitigation measures Over the course of less than a year, the program grew alongside the principal’s mounting prominence and the company’s increased awareness of evolving threat levels. We progressed in small, iterative steps in order to learn as we went along, communicate with the company, and to make sure that all services were tailored to the client’s preferences. The program that began with one-off secure travel support for high-risk destinations now includes an embedded EP manager, EP and residential agents, and an intelligence analyst. Furthermore, we continue to support the principal and other executives in the company on their frequent travels domestically and abroad, typically three out of every four weeks.
2. Vacation Security
Don’t forget to pack security for your next family vacation Corporate travelers are often accustomed to a greater degree of service – including security service – when they are on the road for the company compared to personal vacations. But as this case illustrates, sometimes just a little bit of travel intelligence and a single security driver can go a long way in keeping everyone safe while enjoying a family holiday.
The challenge: A last-minute trip to Mexico requires a security evaluation One of our clients decided to travel with his family on a personal trip to Mexico. The destination was a popular tourist hub and typically considered safe. However, the company’s security team wanted a security evaluation of the destination prior to departure. The principal and his family were leaving the next day.
The solution: Draw on intelligence from a recent deployment One of our executive protection teams had just finished escorting a dignitary in the town. Using their network prior to and while on assignment, they became aware of some circumstances that elevated the risk level for travelers in the area. At the time of travel for the principal and his family, no event had yet occurred, but the risks were still prevalent. We thus recommended that a security driver accompany the family on their vacation. The family agreed to this plan.The family had a safe vacation and enjoyed their driver. However, shortly after they returned home, the security situation in the town took a turn for the worse, especially for tourists, when several incidents occurred in public areas. A few weeks after the family returned home, there was an attack close to where they had stayed.
The results: A safe trip enabled by timely information Our team had this insight one month prior to the attack. The U.S. State Department issued a travel risk alert for the area one week after the attack.When the news reports came in about the attack, the principal called us to thank us for the excellent suggestion of having a secure driver. His family had a great vacation and felt safe the entire time. They were now aware of how close they could have been to real danger. The principal stated that he will never again make travel plans without advanced security intelligence.
3. Securing Your Big Meeting
Security screening is a fact of life – not only in airports, but in all sorts of venues open to the public including government and corporate buildings as well as major sporting and cultural events. Professional security provides tailor-made screening services for a number of clients both as standalone services and as integrated components of other protective services. These are usually planned far in advance. In this case, we had only four hours.
The challenge: International hotel and hospitality group requires rapid scalability of security screening. Our client was an international group that manages hotels, conference centers and hospitality services worldwide. The head of international group security had issued a new directive. Given that hotels have been targeted in several high-profile, violent attacks the world over, the group would now implement stringent risk mitigation methods in case of heightened alerts. Among other things the new guidelines required that all staff, visitors, vendors and guests would have to pass through metal detectors. All hotel deliveries would also have to pass through x-ray screening. Because of the urgent nature of such sudden changes in perceived threat, all screening equipment and personnel had to be onsite and operating within four hours upon notice of escalation.
The solution: A partnership that guarantees deployment of equipment and staff in four hours. While AS Solution had the personnel and most of the necessary equipment available in the Northern European capital where the hotels and conference center were located, such rapid deployment was anything but business as usual. Plans for such activities are usually made weeks if not months in advance.way, We partnered with the group and other stakeholders to ensure that the necessary resources could be deployed on time and implemented per agreed protocols. Additional equipment was purchased. SOPs were developed. Agreements were made with staff to be on call. Short-notice transportation of the x-ray scanners was also arranged. Few logistics companies have the expertise necessary to move these sensitive apparatuses without disturbing them. Unless properly transported, they cannot be used immediately upon arrival and must settle for up to 24 hours. Even fewer logistics operators have the insurance to cover this costly equipment.
The results: Seamless screening of all guests, luggage and hotel deliveries. The first heightened security alert came within three months of the partnership agreement. One evening at 8pm the group’s international security management directed local managers to begin screening at all three of its hotels in the Northern European capital. In this case we were given until the following morning to have everything up and running. After a busy night we were in place at all locations, screening all persons and deliveries entering the hotels as agreed. Maintaining optimal guest experience despite such an obvious disruption in the normal flow is paramount in such situations. We were happy to learn that after thousands of personal screenings 24/7 for one week, the number of guest complaints to hotel management could be counted on less than five fingers. And these grumbles were about the screenings themselves – not about how they had been performed. Behind the scenes there were other challenges. Chefs were less than happy that their precious ingredients had to pass through screening; service vendors were not satisfied that toolboxes went through the same machines. But all in all, hotel management was very satisfied with results of the rapid deployment, which fortunately ended without incident after one week.
4. Dangerous Trips
We protect our principals wherever their business or personal interests take them. Regardless of the destination, we rely on our well-trained agents and extensive local networks to keep our principals safe, happy and productive.This is especially helpful in high-risk areas such as San Pedro Sula, Honduras – home to our Latin American office and widely considered to be one of the most dangerous cities in the world.
The challenge: Protect our principals during a sudden outbreak of street violence nearby.Our group of clients was staying in San Pedro Sula for business. Shortly after leaving their hotel to attend a business-related function, gunfire erupted on a nearby street resulting in mass chaos and severe traffic delays.Due to the urgency of the incident our team needed to respond quickly to understand the threat, assess the risk to our principals and ensure that they were protected at all times.
The solution: Secure the area where our principals were visiting and tap our local intelligence sources. Whenever we learn of an attack or ongoing threat in the vicinity of our client’s whereabouts, their safety is our number one concern. Once we were confident that they were safe and their location was secure, we worked quickly to understand the nature of the threat. Our local intel sources soon learned what had taken place, and were able to determine the profession and rank of the victim as well as provide some insight concerning the perpetrators. We discovered that the victim had stayed at the same hotel as our clients, and that after the targeted attack that the shooters had fled to a remote area of the city.
The results: Our clients remained safe and their schedule was not disrupted. Protected throughout the incident, our clients were not harmed in any way when the nearby shooting left multiple people dead along with additional victims that were seriously injured. Our initial findings were later confirmed by local law enforcement and military officials: The attackers had indeed entered the area of the city where our clients were staying, then had waited to ambush their victim, who happened to be staying at the same hotel as our principals before fleeing across the city. The violence was specifically targeted. By leveraging our extensive local network, we could discover this vital information well before it was made known to the public. This enabled us to conclude that our principals could safely continue with their activities as planned. Five years of operational experience in San Pedro Sula have taught us that trained and vetted people, reliable technology and effective procedures are all critical to providing security in such high-risk areas. These all came together that night in San Pedro Sula. Using armored vehicles, expert staff and secure driving protocols as standard operating procedures, our team’s preventative measures safeguarded our principals from harm in a high-risk context. When the shootings began and the threats escalated, our team tapped local intelligence sources to quickly assess the severity of a seemingly chaotic situation and allow our principals to carry on with their busy schedules.
5. When a natural disaster strikes suddenly
Executive protection is often believed to be a service for C-suite executives, but a quality program can be scaled in a moment’s notice to mitigate risks for a principal’s family and close associates as well.
The challenge: Devastating wildfire, hurricane-level winds, and a stranded family member The wife of our client, the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, was staying at a hotel that suddenly came under siege by one of the most destructive wildfires in California’s history. The blaze eventually burned 36,810 acres, 2,843 structures, 2,800 homes, and claimed at least 22 lives in California’s beautiful wine country.The Tubbs Fire started around 9:45 pm on Oct. 8, 2017 in Calistoga, California. By 1 am on Oct. 9, the fire had spread to Santa Rosa, where our client’s wife was staying at a high-end hotel. Sonoma County officials called for an evacuation of Santa Rosa at 1:30 am. At 2 am, our Operations Center received a call from our client’s security team requesting the evacuation of the CEO’s wife. She had left the hotel, leaving her personal belongings behind, and was safe, for the moment, at a friend’s house. At the same time, whipped by near hurricane-level winds, flames were now crossing Highway 101, the main roadway in the area.
The solution: 24/7 availability and teamwork When our operations specialist received the call at 2 am, he alerted his duty manager who relied on his five years of experience and our network to execute the evacuation quickly. The wildfire’s rapid and unpredictable spread required careful coordination between the duty manager, our local partner in the Sonoma County area, and the Fortune 500 company’s security team.
A successful ending to a long and frightening night Our security driver navigated through smoke-choked roads and rerouted through several detours to arrive at the wife’s friend’s home by 4 am. She was delivered safely an hour and a half later to the Oakland airport, 70 miles south, where the company jet was waiting to fly her safely home. By 4:30 am, the winds in the Santa Rosa area reached their peak speed of more than 60 miles per hour. The high-end hotel burned down. The Tubbs Fire was not 100% contained until Oct. 31, 2017.
6. Reaching Loved Ones After A Natural Disaster
When Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico and other Caribbean islands, it was not just another storm. The category five event was one of most intense hurricanes of all time and came right on the heels of another deadly storm, Hurricane Irma.Right after the storm, some of our clients with families and homes in Puerto Rico asked us for help in determining their loved ones’ wellbeing.
The challenge: Use our local sources to contact stranded family members throughout the island In the aftermath of the storm, there was no way to get on or off the island, and communication was next to impossible. Once we provided our local partners with the names and addresses of the missing family members, they had the unenviable task of making their way to several cities scattered across the island.
The solution: Record messages of family members so their loved ones know they are safe After traveling through a badly bruised Puerto Rico, our local sources were able to communicate the condition of our clients’ family members via satellite phones. Once some communication lines on the island came back online, our partners sent videos that contained personal messages to our clients from their loved ones. This was crucial as many of the family members lived in remote areas that were offline for considerably longer than the larger cities. These messages were key because they let our clients assess what was needed for the families. Armed with this knowledge, they were able to create a plan for how to help once resources started flowing to the island. For example, we made sure that some families received power generators and other key supplies as soon as these could be sent.
The results: Fast contact helped make the best of a bad situation Within 24 hours, we had already contacted many family members. Within a week, we had sent personal video messages from all the Puerto Rican families to their loved ones in the continental United States and around the world. Our clients were relieved to know that their families were safe and had made it through the storm relatively unscathed.