Printer Friendly

Dangerous waters.


DURING THE PAST 20 YEARS, US GOVERNMENT AGENCIES AND AMERICAN multinational companies have devoted substantial resources to countering the threat of terrorist assaults, hostage taking, and kidnapping of key executives. Records kept by Business Risks International's Risk Assessment Information Services show that since 1984 business firms and their employees have been the leading targets of international terrorism. Of more than 3,700 recorded terrorist incidents in 1988, more than 1,200 were directed against business operations.

Terrorism is not the only worry for US executives. Radical groups or disturbed individuals frequently resort to violence because they oppose a company's policy of doing business in certain countries, they hope to disrupt controversial research programs, or they object to the alleged dumping of toxic wastes, or simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time perceived wealth, or simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time may also raise an executive's threat profile.

Because they have been targeted by terrorists, government agencies and large multinationals have taken many steps to increase security. Organizations have established or expanded their professional security staffs, conducted in-depth security surveys, constructed vehicular and visitor access controls, procured armored vehicles and bullet-resistant vests, installed alarms, and metal detectors, hired bodyguards, and developed comprehensive crisis management and executive protection plans.

The best equipment and procedures are of little value, however, if not used properly. Alarms must be set, doors locked, and chauffeurs trained in evasive driving techniques. Executives must limit their exposure to unnecessary risk. Granted, eliminating risk is not possible in today's world, but reducing exposure to it is not so difficult.

Risk reduction is fundamental to any executive protection program. The key to risk reduction is ensuring executives actively practice basic principles of good security - use common sense, keep informed, and exercise prudent judgment. These principles should come naturally to executives since they are the principles the executives used to reach their highly responsible positions.

A low-profile, basic risk reduction plan costs practically nothing and pays handsome dividends in peace of mind and personal safety. It is available to the CEO of the largest conglomerate as well as the corporate executive of a small company who does not have a professional security staff to provide guidance for his or her protection. The following suggestions are simple, time-tested measures that security managers can pass on to executives to reduce their exposure to risk at home, in the office, and while traveling.

Preparation. A sensible approach to developing an executive protection plan is first to put personal affairs in order. Executives should prepare financial profiles that list relevant information about checking, savings, and IRA accounts; stocks, bonds, or other negotiable instruments; real estate and other property; credit cards; insurance policies; and mortgages, notes payable, and other liabilities. Information pertinent to the preparation of a tax return, a will, and a power of attorney should also be included. These documents should be placed in a secure location available to family members or others who need to know these details in an emergency.

Next, a personal vulnerability assessment should be conducted. Executives need to step back and take a good, hard, objective look at their overall life style to see if corporate policies or activities, physical location, position in the company, perceived wealth, or other factors increase their threat exposure. Those who travel or live in a foreign country should make an even more detailed assessment. Executives who may not consider themselves targets might be prize catches in someone else's eyes. In poorer countries, or those with differing social mores, life styles normal by American standards could single individuals out for special attention. Some might become targets for no other reason than that they are American.

There is no substitute for acquiring a reasonable facility in the host country's language for employees posted abroad for any length of time. The ability to communicate effectively will make assignments more meaningful, productive, enjoyable, and safe.

If certain executives determine their personal protection must be improved, they should include family members in the solution. Being careful not to scare them, executives should talk candidly about safety concerns with their families. Spouses and children normally are not targeted, but careless disclosure by family members or servants about an executive's activities can lead to problems. Family members need to be aware of areas of town to avoid, potential civil disturbances, and the need to make good security practices a normal part of their daily routine.

Residential security. After a personal assessment, residential security should be reviewed. Since the choice of a home is a personal matter, residential security measures must vary according according to the size and location of the property, whether the residence is an apartment or a house, and the physical contents. Nevertheless, several commonsense, practical steps can be taken.

A walk around the property can reveal obvious weaknesses that could facilitate an intruder's entry. It does not take a security expert to recognize that a ladder left lying on the grounds may afford easy access to upper balconies or windows. Shrubbery and other bushes planted close to a house or near entrances afford excellent cover for burglars, particularly if exterior lighting is inadequate or nonexistent.

Houses should be well lit at night with drapes and blinds drawn. Exterior doors should be equipped with 180 degree door viewers, door chains, and dead-bolt locks. Locks should be changed when first occupying a home, whenever keys are lost, or following a change of domestic staff.

When domestic and office staff are hired, references should be required and checked. In the United States, domestic workers should provide their correct name, date of birth, and social security number. Outside the United States, the same personal data should be provided along with the correct local identification number for each country. Household staff should refuse to admit strangers or unrequested repair workers and should be instructed not to divulge information to anyone about an executive's whereabouts or activities. Those living in apartments should use the intercom or video to identify visitors prior to admitting them to the building.

Repair workers requiring access to a residence should be escorted at all times. Jewelry or other valuables should never be left exposed during service calls. Any suspicious persons or vehicles in the neighborhood should be noted and reported to police. These simple precautions can be augmented by the purchase and installation of commercially available intrusion alarms, decorative iron grillwork, and other residential security hardware.

Special considerations may apply to residences located overseas, depending on the locale. Careful thought should be given to selecting the neighborhood and the residence. Most kidnappings and assassinations have occurred near the home, when the victim was either leaving or returning. Therefore, avoiding a residence served by a narrow, one-way street is important. Inquiries to the local police and the American embassy or consulate security office can help identify areas that have high crime rates, are located near trouble spots, or are otherwise to be avoided. Executives should take advantage of a visit to the embassy to register their presence in the country with the consular section.

Executives with an open choice of residences should consider the advantages of an apartment. Apartments are much easier to secure than houses, afford a degree of anonymity, and provide close neighbors. Buildings that feature access controls, lobby guards, and secure parking areas are preferable. A unit above the second floor, which cannot be reached easily from the ground but is within the reach of fire-fighting equipment, is optimal.

In areas where anti-American sentiment is common, names should be removed from mailboxes, doors, or entry intercoms. Inside the home, telephone numbers of the local police and other emergency services should be posted near each telephone. In a non-English speaking country, appropriate phrases identifying the nature of potential problems and giving directions to the residence should be included as well. Once settled, executives should get to know neighbors and the neighborhood, learn the layout of the streets, and find the nearest hospital and police station.

Vehicular security. Executives should ensure that automobiles are in good mechanical condition and gas tanks are at least half full. For a modest cost, anti-intrusion and antitheft devices can be installed in cars. Good security practices include examining cars for tampering before entering or starting them, varying routes to and from work, parking in well-lit or controlled areas, and keeping the car windows up and doors locked at all times. Executives should observe the flow of traffic and be aware of potential surveillance. To the extent traffic permits, maneuvering room should be left between a car and the vehicles in front and behind. When possible, drivers should travel in the center lane to complicate any attempt to force the car off the road. Additional measures, including the use of armored cars, remote starters, and chauffeurs trained in defensive driving techniques, can be taken depending on the threat level.

Executives working overseas should drive cars manufactured locally or common in the country of assignment. They should be reasonably powerful without being ostentatious and be equipped with local plates. If feasible, cars should be rotated frequently. The local crime situation should be monitored to avoid driving into "hot spots." Vehicles should be serviced regularly, and a radio or radio-telephone should be installed whenever possible.

Travel. Today's corporate executive frequently travels abroad. A minimum of preparation will contribute to an enjoyable and safe journey. Travelers should begin by learning something about the countries they intend to visit. Country guides are available, and publications such as the weekly, quarterly, and country-specific reports prepared by Business Risks International's Risk Assessment Information Services provide useful insights and analyses of current political and economic situations, criminal activity, and terrorist developments that should be considered when formulating travel plans. Persons at corporate foreign subsidiaries and trusted overseas company representatives are also a valuable source of information and should be consulted for their views.

Other executive travel tips include the following suggestions:

* Reserve airline tickets in each person's own name without reference to his or her position in a company.

* Choose airlines carefully, and fly nonstop whenever possible.

* Dress in a comfortable and casual style for the trip to maintain a low profile.

* After checking in at the airport, move away from public waiting areas, which may pose threats for a terrorist attack or bombing.

* Whenever possible, wait for a plane in the airline's private lounge or in controlled access areas of the airport, and stay away from baggage lockers and carousels.

* Always take stock of airport surroundings.

* Be alert to the environment and make mental notes of possible exits or other avenues of escape, as well as walls or columns that could provide some protection in the event of an attack.

* Arrange for a company car to meet you at the destination. If that's not possible, take advantage of the special airport booths set up to provide reputable bus, limousine, and taxi services.

The selection of a hotel is as important for safety as for comfort. Quality hotels that cater to international clients should be chosen. These hotels generally employ trained security personnel, have fire alarms and sprinkler systems, and have resident or on-call medical staff. As in an apartment, the room selected should be above the second floor but not beyond the reach of local fire-fighting equipment. Choosing a room located between the third and seventh floors is a good rule of thumb. Escape routes and the location of the nearest fire exits should be noted. Executives should take personal papers and company documents with them when leaving the room.

At work. Although much can be done personally to improve security at home and while traveling, the protection of plant and office facilities is usually best left to professionals. Nevertheless, individual employees can develop, and should be familiar with, fire, bomb, and other emergency action plans. If these do not exist, the chief executive officer or someone with the authority to do so should require that such contingency plans be developed. Those who do not have the resident expertise can get assistance from a professional security consulting company.

Executives concerned with the security of a small business office can try to locate it above the ground floor and establish controls that restrict access to visitors whose credentials are known to staff members. Installing intrusion and panic alarms, bullet-resistant windows, solid-core doors equipped with dead bolts, closed-circuit TV, or secondary means of egress are other measures that can be taken if deemed prudent.

What if...? The odds of being the victim of a kidnapping attempt are small, particularly when maintaining a low profile and following the basic precautions outlined above. Nevertheless, kidnappings do occur and executives must be prepared for such an eventuality. Their lives may depend on what they do while being held hostage.

First, kidnapping victims should cooperate fully with the abductors. Victims should remain alert and try to remember as many details as possible, including the type and make of any vehicles used, the number and sex of captors, the route taken or the time required to get to a destination, the kind of room used as a holding area, background noises, and any other helpful descriptions that might subsequently assist authorities in identifying the perpetrators. While being held, remembering that most kidnap victims are released unharmed is reassuring.

Victims should not lower the odds of surviving by needlessly provoking their captors. Although under great stress, those abducted should try to maintain their dignity and sense of self-worth at all times. The decision whether to try to escape is a personal one. An attempt should not be made unless success is certain or the kidnappers definitely intend to execute hostages. The best time to attempt an escape is during the confusion surrounding the kidnapping, but victims have only seconds to assess the situation and act. This time is also the most dangerous because the abductors are likely to be very nervous and trigger-happy. Other opportunities may present themselves as captor and captive settle into a daily routine. Captives should always bear in mind that negotiations to effect their release are being conducted.

In conclusion, professional criminals or terrorists also apply the principle of risk reduction in the selecting a target. Their objective, of course, is to reduce the risk of failure. Given a choice, they will focus their efforts on a target that offers the best chance of success - a victim whose personal security habits are Iax and whose patterns of activity are predictable. By following the previous suggestions, executives will complicate terrorists' planning to such a degree that they will most likely look elsewhere for a victim.

Philip J. Harrick is manager of Business Risks International's international division office located in Washington, DC. BRI is a worldwide professional services firm specializing in security consulting, investigations, and loss prevention. Harrick is a member of ASIS.
COPYRIGHT 1989 American Society for Industrial Security
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:includes related article; how high-profile executives can reduce their exposure to unnecessary risks
Author:Harrick, Philip J.; Grove, Daniel A.
Publication:Security Management
Date:Nov 1, 1989
Previous Article:Selling security.
Next Article:A cause for alarms.

Related Articles
Do newspapers lead with lead? A content analysis of how lead health risks to children are covered. (Features).
Protecting spirited leaders: security, and especially executive protection, can play an important role in creating a safe environment in which...
Mold study finds no evidence of serious health hazard.
Bathing safety for the elderly and disabled: can residents be protected from all hazards posed by bathing water? Technology's answer.
The effect of arsenic mitigation interventions on disease burden in Bangladesh.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2017 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters