By Edward D. Clark, Senior Security Consultant, iJET International.
Today's student travelers need to know much more than just what to do to mitigate risk. They must also be trained on how to do it. Over the last 50 years, we have seen significant changes in the travel security industry. From the post-Vietnam War era of kidnapping and ransom scenarios throughout South America to terror attacks against western cultures in Europe and the United States, the number and types of threats faced by travelers continues to increase. Unfortunately, what we have yet to see is same level of advancement in mitigation strategies and personal protective measures.
Regardless of the industry, more and more business travelers are being placed in situations where they realize unacceptable levels of risk. Gone is the need for the ambiguous security plans of the 1960s and 1970s, developed to fuel the egos of corporate executives. Student travelers need protective measures that are both tangible and effective.
To mitigate this rapidly changing risk, security consultants today must have intimate knowledge of the impact each lost asset will have on the client's business, as well as all of the stressors their clients may face while traveling at home and abroad. Most importantly, and sadly the most often neglected factor in the risk equation, is the need for effective risk mitigation strategies. All too often we see pundits, media darlings, self-proclaimed "experts" and even consulting products provide mitigation strategies that are either just general precepts on what to do or tactics that are too ambiguous to be effective. As most of us have recently seen from the attacks in Paris, business travelers and students visiting abroad face legitimate threats, regardless of their destinations. The duty of care for those responsible for that travel requires that they provide effective and actionable protective measures and not lofty strategic doctrine that has no substance. But what is that exactly? What does an effective protective measure look like? Let's continue on with our Paris example to find the answer.
Even as the attacks were occurring in Paris, corporate crisis management teams, newscasters and public officials were broadcasting the need to "be more vigilant," "raise the level of awareness" and "implement a heightened sense of security," but they failed to let us know what that looks like. What actions do you take or what equipment do you deploy to "be more aware"? What does a sense of security look like so that a traveler receiving this information knows how to heighten or increase that state? Another point supporting this dynamic shows a summary of information collected on the actions taken by security professionals during the actual attacks. While most organizations did what they were trained to do, most if not all of those tasks performed would prove to be ineffective in actually mitigating the risk from a violent attack against a traveler. Let's look at some details to better realize the difference between strategic guidance and effective protective measures.
When we tell someone to be more aware of their surroundings, we are telling them to be more cognizant or conscious of the people and objects in their environment in hopes of identifying someone or something that has the potential of causing them harm and hopefully avoiding closer contact with that person or object. By recommending that a person be more aware, we have actually asked them to perform three tasks:
- Identify the physical space that actually constitutes your operational environment
- Determine which objects in that space may cause you harm
- Determine the people in that space that may cause you harm
This brings us to the point where we realize that the difference between a precept and a tactic is not so much in telling someone what to do, but how to do it. Let's continue on with our example of becoming more aware.
While we have simple and effective methodologies for identifying your operational space and potentially hazardous substances or devices, let's focus on how we identify someone who has the intent to commit an act of violence (or any other crime for that matter). Keep in mind, we are using this technique to identify those who may potentially cause us harm and not imposing a death sentence. The point being is that it's okay to move away from someone you have determined may harm you without harming that person if they are innocent. The more you practice this, the better and more "aware" you become. While it may initially seem like a lot to do, after one overseas trip of applying this technique, you can perform this analysis in just a few seconds.
The tactic revolves around the acronym FACE:
- Attitude and Actions
- Clothing and Appearance
F = Focus. What is the focus of the person you are evaluating? People generally focus on the reason they are in a certain situation, like watching a sporting event. They are focused on the field or court, perhaps focused on a colleague with whom they are discussing a play. Someone there to commit a crime will also be focused on their reason for being there: searching for a place to plant an explosive, going against the grain, searching for a concentration of people or focusing on the weapons they will use to commit their crime.
- What is the focus of the person you are analyzing?
- Is it similar to those around you?
- Is it appropriate for the situation?
A = Attitude and Actions. In this case, we are trying to determine if the attitude and actions of the person we are assessing are appropriate for the situation. You expect a delivery man to be anxious or hurried. People waiting in line may be irate or rude. Someone waiting in line that is mumbling to themselves, fumbling with objects in a pocket or backpack, or their attitude or actions do not seem appropriate may be suspicious.
C = Clothing and Appearance. Seeing someone with blue hair and blue paint on their chest would raise suspicion at the White House or the Vatican, but this same person in Kansas City would be considered nothing more than a loyal Royals baseball fan. Again, we are not looking for someone that you personally feel is odd, but someone whose clothing and appearance are not appropriate for the current situation. Is this person wearing a heavy coat while the rest of the crowd is in t-shirts and shorts? Are they attempting to portray a certain culture, such as a cowboy, hip hop star or other cultural group (especially in an attempt to mask their true intentions)? Are they sweating profusely, despite cooler temperatures? Heavily perfumed? Do they act or appear to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol?
E = Environment. When considering the environment, there are two factors. One is the physical environment, such as time of day, weather, geography and seasons. The other is the operational environment. Has an attack already occurred? Are people evacuating an area? What environmental factor is currently impacting the behavior of those around me? These situations will all change the meaning of what is appropriate for the current situation.
We see that we can very quickly go from providing moderately helpful precepts, such as "remain vigilant," to specific actions you can take to actually be more aware. As leaders, executives and administrators, the responsibility is now ours to go beyond the basic factors of knowing the risk profile for people we have placed in harm's way by knowing what we must protect, what we must protect them from and what we have to protect them with. We must also ensure that we understand how these protective measures will occur and ensure that they are effective in mitigating the risk to our institution's assets.
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