Editor's Note: This is the second analysis in a three-part series on self-protection.
No one can be on red alert everywhere and at all times and still expect to live a satisfactory life. Even if one did live in a constant state of hypervigilance, it would be no guarantee of safety. This is true even of executives whose professional status and/or job location might put them in harm's way, but who either prefer to go without expert security protection or are not provided this service by their companies. By working with professionals to develop a self-protection system, these executives can assess possible threats and begin to determine when and where they must be most vigilant. The first step on the road to devising a personal protection system, therefore, is making a realistic baseline assessment of threats and vulnerabilities
. Armed with this assessment, one can then make informed distinctions about how to prioritize the threats and vulnerabilities, and what kinds of actions are appropriate to each. A comprehensive — but simple — security plan can then be crafted. Personal security does not involve living on red alert, but making the appropriate distinctions and leveraging the percentages in one's favor. For example, a principal who lives a normal suburban American life, but happens to be the manager of a large cash repository in an industrial park, should prioritize planning that accounts for long-term, sophisticated hostile surveillance by professional extortion kidnappers. A jeweler who routinely hand-delivers expensive items to clients might first think about the possibility of information compromises originating from his workplace. An expatriate in a crime-ridden Third World city might think primarily in terms of choke points along his and his family's routes, where predatory criminals could wait for attractive targets to ambush. A key executive with a high public profile might think first about venues and events that put him or her in direct, previously announced contact with the public. For purposes of analysis and planning, then, it makes sense to divide the criminal threat into two rough categories: threats directed specifically against the targets because of who they are; and threats from ambush predators who wait for attractive targets to come to them. In the first case, privacy protection, surveillance awareness and physical security are called for. In the second, understanding route analysis and avoidance of choke points is necessary. Some cities unfortunately present both classes of threat to a high degree. Making these distinctions in a pragmatic way can allow one to convert a general, often vague atmosphere of fear, into a manageable set of priorities and actions. Whatever the analysis indicates, the plan should include active measures that allow one to sensibly raise and lower his or her level of security awareness as the circumstances warrant. This is the secret to living with security. For most people, this means knowing where one is relatively safe, and where one is not, and taking steps to create "safe areas" within which security awareness can be more relaxed. For most people, these are the home, the workplace, and if it applies, the school. In the latter case, parents must select schools based on their security measures as well as their academic qualities, and should stay active in monitoring the security environment through the school administration, parent-teacher association or other groups. For some executives, the threat of workplace violence also can be a concern. In such situations, extra measures are required to secure the environment. Physical security and access-control measures
should be taken to establish these safe areas, measures that exceed the realistically perceived threat. Outside established safe areas, principals should understand that they are most vulnerable to targeted crime when they are most predictable. For most people this means travel between home, work and school, though for many people the best advice, to vary routes and times, is not practical. This concept in fact is counterintuitive for most people: The very familiarity of their routine movements can create a sense of false security. Many people have had the experience of leaving the office at the end of the day and pulling into their driveways, unable to remember a single detail about the drive home. This tendency must be consciously eliminated from one's behavior. In countries where kidnapping for ransom is an industry, the security of school buses often is overlooked. Many expatriate parents send their children to high-end private schools, most of which provide busing for a fee. Despite the convenience, parents should recognize that a busload of children traveling to and from a school known to serve the children of wealthy, prominent parents may present a tempting target to kidnappers. Moreover, school buses are uniquely predictable, both as to times and routes. School buses are seldom protected. Having established safe areas and worked out safe travel procedures and routes, principals should add some final refinements to the security plan:
- Privacy plan: Principals should understand that most targeted, professional crime follows this progression: target selection, target investigation, target surveillance and then attack. The first two stages — target selection and investigation — require first of all that information about the targets be available. The cyber stalker report will help reveal the degree of transparency principals' lives present to outsiders. Although some of this information is already "out there" and cannot be erased, some things can be done. Delisting phone numbers; removing personal information from cars and buildings; restricting the circumstances under which one — and especially one's children — are photographed; and re-registering homes, cars, boats and personal aircraft under innocuous shell corporations should be considered. Principals should use crosscut shredders to destroy papers that would otherwise be available to "dumpster divers." Finally, household staff must be vetted for criminal records and for credit/financial problems. Some executives also require psychological evaluation of personal staff. Principals also should maintain an active interest in the personal lives of staff, especially those who live in the home. Some kidnapping operations begin with criminals seeking a personal relationship with a live-in maid or nanny. Principals also should consider avoiding ostentation in their personal lives. Owning the largest estate in a community or the only customized red Ferarri with vanity plates in town raises one's profile.
- Communications: Principals should ensure redundant communications systems for themselves and family members. Push-to-talk cell phone/radio combinations with text messaging work very well in many countries, and should be considered. Communication capability does not help, however, if one does not know whom to call. In most developed countries, there is some version of the 911 system. In areas where police response and capabilities are not to be trusted, employees and their families may have access to the employer's security control center, which can call out a protective response. If family members are scattered (kids at school, wife at her workplace, husband at his), families should have a preset plan for who calls whom to alert them and ascertain their safety. In some cases, families should have a simple code for communication under duress. This is an easily remembered word or phrase known by all family members that will discreetly signal that one is under duress. For children, "kid phones" traceable via Global Positioning System will soon be available.
- Fire and home evacuation: Not all threats are criminal. Principals should have an established plan for evacuating the home and ensuring that all family members are safe.
- Area evacuation: In regions threatened by war, major civil unrest or possible natural disaster, leaving the area during a crisis could be the safest course of action. Principals should have a preset plan in place for accomplishing this successfully.
- Drilling: Emergency plans, even simple ones, cannot be expected to work unless they are practiced periodically. This is not only true in cases involving children. Under sudden stress, people of all ages can experience diminished thought and decision-making processes.
Once the security plan is in place, the principal and his or her family can begin the process of learning the skills to become mentally and physically prepared to successfully handle a threat. This step, training, is the most challenging.