Day after day, on social media and elsewhere on the Internet, there are lots of folks who are seemingly shocked every time a bad guy shows up and acts like a bad guy. Seriously, how many times have you read or seen “I can’t believe Suspect A was able to murder all of those people” or “If only they (security) did XYZ like I thought of during a conversation with my veterinarian who may have been in the military, that bad thing wouldn’t have happened”? I see it quite a bit and frankly, I’ve decided it may be time to finally add my .02 about it.Those of us in security who have spent some time studying “the threat” (insert whatever scary bad guy you’re dealing with) understand what few who haven’t studied it don’t. No matter how awesome your protective measures are, they do little to mitigate (and certainly not “prevent”) the attacker unless you start thinking a bit like they do. Herein lies the fatal flaw of most “white hats” and even some “grey hats”.You think of attacks in ways that you would conduct them. No offense but if you’re protecting yourself against robbers but know relatively little of them, you may be looking to deploy solutions which don’t work against that threat. One of the most painful things any security professional can hear when doing a site survey with a client from the client is “If I were the bad guy, this is how I would do it.” More often than not, it is not how the bad guys would attack. Think security cameras in homes. Most people will deploy a camera at home with the thought the camera provides an extra layer of protection when in fact it doesn’t. I have known several victims of home invasions who either had cameras installed or had an alarm sign out front. These are two commonly deployed deterrence tools that we know don’t work. Instead, focus on the problem as if the bad guy would ignore the deterrence measures (because he will because we have little proof he won’t) and proceed with the attack and use things like cameras as after-incident mitigation tools to catch the perpetrator later.You think of your threat as one-dimensional. Most good guys see their threat based on commonly accepted precepts of what the threat is and how he has attacked in the past. Just because the bad guy only hit you or the other guy using one vector doesn’t mean he won’t try something different later. A great example of this is 9/11. Prior to the second World Trade Center attack, there were common beliefs that terrorists were only capable of performing certain kinds of attacks. What no factored in was changing realistic threat capabilities. In other words, we assumed the threat wasn’t evolutionary in his tactics. Seriously, who could’ve imagine having to protect a building against two near-simultaneous aircraft crashes? Perhaps we could have had we accepted the idea that as we change so does the threat.You think the threat is omnipotent and omnipresent. It’s easy to get caught up in the hype of a threat. I do it sometimes. This is a natural defense mechanism after an attack has occurred. Why? No one likes to have their vulnerabilities exposed. After every mass shooting or act of violence that makes the news, we assume every venue that is like the one that was attacked is also vulnerable and being selected as the “next” target for another perpetrator.I remember fondly working on 9/11 on a small Air Force base on a perimeter patrol. What I recall the most are the initial attitudes people had of al Qaeda. We believed this one attack displayed a level of sophistication unseen by them before on US soil could be replicated on a massive scale. Every Muslim, ignorantly, was assumed to be a sleeper agent waiting for cues from “Muslim HQ” to attack us wherever and however they chose. The months and years ahead showed how far from the truth that was. Imagine how many countless resources were expended before we realized the fallacy behind this assumption.You think your attacker “chose” you for a variety of reasons he didn’t. People almost always assume an attacker chose to attack them or others for reasons they didn’t. Rape is commonly thought to be a crime of lust because good people believe sex is the only reason you rape because it’s the end-result. However, most criminologists and psychologists would agree rape is a crime of power. I would argue the majority of crime takes place for this very reason. Terrorism occurs because of this as does murder (what’s more powerful than ridding yourself of someone permanently), drug dealing, fraud, and a host of other crimes. You’re either fighting to obtain it (i.e. steal it from someone else) or committing crime to become more powerful. This confusion could possibly explain why most crime “prevention” measures based on policy fail at alarming rates – we’re clueless on what truly motivates people to attack us.You assume because you haven’t seen the threat, he must not exist. Whether we see the threat or not, we should never assume he does not exist. While the threat can’t be everywhere every time, the threat can still be very much. Never assume the absence of threat means he or she isn’t going to show. You still need to adequately protect your assets as if today is the day you’re going to be attacked. Remember, the attacker chooses the time of attack. You choose how well-prepared you’ll be when it happens.I’m not proposing anyone go out and hire a red team. I firmly believe one of the reasons we, often, fail so miserably at security sometimes is due to our natural inclination to think the bad guy thinks like we do when they don’t. So how can we fix this?Study your adversary. Seriously, pour over any open source intelligence you can on your threat. Read the paper and look for crime stories. Pick up a police report or two on similar venues like yours. I’ll leave how you conduct your research to you. Just do it. Stop assuming blindly how the attack will go down or even who your adversary is.Consider hiring folks who can think like attackers. I’m not saying you hire criminals but red teams hire specialists who can mimic attackers. Choose folks from a variety of backgrounds to round out your security team. By the way, by “background”, I’m not talking education. I mean pick a team with a variety of specialists.Test your systems with exercises. The only way you’re going to learn is by testing how well your security program holds up against an actual attack. Consider doing this with little to no notice and have an after-action or “hot-wash” debriefing with your red team and affected staff right away. Finally, fix the vulnerabilities as soon as possible.Reward outside the box thinking. When I was a young boy, I recall my fondest memories were playing games like “hide-and-go-seek” with my friends. The guys who were the most creative were the best at this game. Why? Because they were unpredictable. I’ll leave how you choose to reward these folks on your own. Just do it.
I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I run into stores that have decoy cameras in lieu of real cameras. I also can’t tell you how many countless times these same stores get robbed. Buying a decoy camera, in my opinion, are invitations for criminals. This is not to say most criminals can’t tell the difference between fake and real. This is to say that many of these businesses and homes that utilize decoy cameras don’t quite get what kind of mitigators they need to adequately protect themselves and their assets.
The added statistic at the bottom of this photograph is especially troubling because it dupes customers into believing they have added another layer of “security”. This is correct in some respects. Remember what I said about “security” being a goal and less of an action? The problem lies in exactly the same place issues of semantics in security are – it relies on data that is either incomplete and more than likely, irrelevant to their protection needs.
We all know cameras serve a variety of purposes other than video surveillance. We also understand some vendors and property owners either have poor tools or are so under-trained they may as well not have a camera. However, when an incident happens, the last thing property owners want to tell the police and insurance companies (worse yet, a jury in a civil liability trial) is they thought a decoy or non-operative camera offered better protection.
If you’re a property owner and considering one of these decoys, turn around and invest in a camera system you will monitor and maintain. If you’re a pro, call these out and the dangers behind using them.
Filed under: Crime Mitigation, Security Management
A picture of my “get-home bag”
I had the privilege of working as a private security officer as one of my first jobs after getting out of the military. I did this job in one of the most disaster-prone areas of the country – Florida. During my training and my time spent with coworkers and supervisors, I had many conversations about our duty to remain on-site during a natural disaster. These conversations had me asking many introspective questions about my own personal preparedness to fulfill this obligation. I knew I was highly trained and very skilled in providing the best protection possible for our clients. I was more concerned with the stark contrasts between my preparedness from when I did similar work in the military versus this new arena as a civilian. In the military, my post was equipped with gas mask, Chemical Biological Nuclear Radiation Explosive suits, food rations, radio, and a huge support network. As a civilian, I had none of these to face similar threats. It was this realization that sparked my determination to “prep”.
“Prepping” is the application of various disaster preparedness concepts for personal and group survival in the event of a disaster. It’s that simple. No Rambo survivalist fantasies stereotypes. Just people who want to better prepare for disasters in order to survive. With that in mind, “prepping” seems to be one of the most overlooked portions of the security officer’s toolkit. Most agencies assign you a standard list of mandatory you need just to make it through a standard duty day. My hope is to provide you with a guide to get you through those not-so-standard duty days.
Flashlights. This goes without saying almost but I HIGHLY recommend carrying at least two more flashlights. In the picture above you will note two flashflights. I keep one for map reading and other minimum distance tasks. The other I use for longer distance tasks such as room clearing, site exploration, target acquisition, and signaling.
Compass, binoculars, and maps. Loads of security guys will carry the flashlight and maybe a knife and first aid kit. Few see the utility of having additional roadmaps and a compass. These tools are valuable for a variety of reasons in disaster scenarios that range from giving directions and position location to rescuers, navigation from one point on-site to another, and mapping terrain features and other locations as temporary shelter locations should they be needed.
Knives. I can’t overstate why having a knife is a good thing in a disaster. There’s practically an encyclopedia’s worth of knowledge of the best utilities for a knife. I won’t go over any of them here. However, I would like to specify the types of knives you should consider. I carry a defensive knife, three multi-tool knives, and a hunter’s knife. These knives each serve a multitude of purposes and have served me in more ways than I can articulate in this space. Suffice it to say, if you don’t get how these could benefit you in a disaster, then I suggest you get yourself in a situation where you need to cut, pry, hold, clamp, or stab something without them.
Notepad. Keep a notepad handy should you need to keep track of people in your area, emergency responders you’ve made contact with, how many people are on-site, etc. Anything and everything you feel you need to keep track of you should use this notepad for.
Tape. In my photo, you will notice electrical tape. I keep this tape in my kit mostly because this is my go-to tape for work and I keep it in the bag I take with me most in the field. It’s also handy to have in my car for various vehicle breakdown scenarios. Before you ask, I also keep duct tape handy. It’s another bag but I do have it and would use it over the electrical tape. The most important thing for security officers to note are the practical uses tape could have in a survival situation. In most cases, we use tape to keep things stuck together. There are a few more uses for tape other than this. I have used tape to close bandages, mark areas I cleared, hastily label items, etc. Just like knives, tape is another subject where the uses in a disaster are too large to discuss here. To say the least, if you don’t already, keep some tape in your gear.
Cottonballs. I keep cottonballs in my kit for two reasons. The first is to have it to use as a dressing for wounds. The other is to use it for kindling in case a fire is needed. You may scoff at the idea of needing a fire in a standard duty. However, remember this list is for those non-standard duty days.
Whistle. It’s a secondary communication device.
Lighter and “strike-anywhere” matches.
Signalling mirror. This is another communication device.
Address book. I keep all of the important numbers and information I may need in case cell service is out or my phone is dead. Most people are caught off-guard by how fast cell services goes out in disaster scenarios. Having a copy of your most important numbers is very important. You should consider having the numbers for:(a) Your local police and fire departments(b) Your home numbers and those of family members you may need to inform.(c) Your employer’s numbers(d) The National Weather Service Dial-A-Forecast for your local area(e) 511 and 311. This will provide local government information and traffic information.(f) Local friends who may have some situational awareness about what’s happening.
Debris mask. This is no substitute for a full respirator or gas mask but it could prove vital if the need arises.
Gloves. I normally carry both latex and work gloves. The latext I use to mitigate exposure to bloodborne pathogens, while I use the work gloves to mitigate exposure to various temperature fluctuations, rain, sharp or abrasive materials, and to gain better traction when gripping certain objects.
Paracord. Seriously, I don’t have enough space in the world to discuss paracord. Get educated on how useful just a few feet can be, if you’re not already, and I guarantee you’ll be carrying it daily as a part of your kit.
Basic tools. Screwdriver with multiple bits and a hex lock tool. Also, if your bag allows, consider carrying a hammer and camp axe.
Basic first aid kit with bandages, supplies for tourniquets, and other items you have been trained to use in a medical situation.
Food. I pack food for sustainment and morale purposes. In other words, in my kit, you will find food for meals like MREs and other high calorie food meals and morale like snacks and some candies. Anyone who has ever had to eat the same meal over and over again or who has to “stretch” a meal out over a few days knows the power having some variety in between can have on your morale.
Water and purification tablets. The water goes without saying. There could be a situation when you’re stuck on site but with limited water options. Having water on hand and having the ability to purify the available water on-site will ensure you’re meeting one of the most important survival needs.
Clothes. Ever been on a patrol and got rained on? I have and the impact it has on you physically and mentally is taxing. Physically, you can suffer from hypothermia and all the ugliness associated with that. Mentally, there is nothing better than knowing you can periodically change clothes if needed. Anyone who has ever been rained on during a foot patrol can attest to this.
Boots. See clothes.
Rucksack or versatile tactical bag. The bag you see pictured above is what my wife has deemed my “tactical man-bag”. All joking aside, having a good bag to store your gear is of the utmost important. If you don’t or can’t go with a bag, then I suggest obtaining a pouch wherein you can carry your basic personal survival stuff in a pocket or some other storage compartment. You should test any bag to its limit. My recommendation, if your budget can handle it, buy a rucksack from the folks at GoRuck and evaluate the bag through their course. I have been meaning to do a GoRuck Challenge just for this purpose. No better way to see how your bag holds up other than through some stress. GoRuck puts on challenges that will do just that and give you some idea as to where you stand with another critical survival tool.
Conditioning. I hated this word in high school. It meant long runs and grumpy coaches. It also meant I would be better prepared for whatever the opponents threw at us that season. The same goes with disaster prep. You should be engaging in enough physical activities daily to prepare yourself for situations wherein your body could easily be the leading cause of death. Remember the first rule in the movie Zombieland was Cardio.
Train. The items on this are dependent on the most important tool you always carry with you – your mind. Please, don’t buy any of the items on this list unless you feel you can adequately use them to save your life or the lives of others. In other words, if you don’t know how to use the tool, find some training to figure it out or practice with the tools until you get it right. These items require the same amount of dedication to master as your firearm or other relevant security tools.
This list is by no means all-inclusive. I will admit I have missed some very important stuff. However, I think I have covered the basics. Let me know if you have any other items you would suggest security officers carry should they find themselves in a disaster situation.Filed under: Disaster Preparedness, Security Operations