They’ve got to get you there safely and on time, again and again
Contributed by Basilio Bob Reyes Jr., Executive Protection Officer and Security Driver, Conoco/Phillips ([email protected]). Contributed articles do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of the ÆGIS e-journal.
In the field of corporate executive protection, one of the key tasks of the protective team is the day-to-day transportation of you, the principal. Getting you from point A to point B (during which you are most exposed and least protected, and where more than 80% of attacks on executives occur) in a safe and expedient manner is very important! One will usually find that the chairman, CEO, VIP, or celebrity has achieved their status by being a hard worker and in the office early. If your driver wants to witness you or your corporate security manager get anxious and angry, or have them breathing down their neck, they just have forget to pick you up, or get you to an appointment late.
One can see that the position of a security driver is critical to the safety and survival of the principal, and therefore requires an extensive background check and interview process with all the appropriate individuals.
In looking at the role of a security driver, it quickly becomes clear that there is a lot to learn, and it takes a proper attitude, good training, and continued learning on the part of the driver to become successful. The driver must be courteous, punctual, clean, and a non-smoker. The driver should also be a person who is good at working alone, and able to think on their feet, which is very important. Why? Because at times situations / multiple targets will appear and they must be prepared to keep a cool head, deal with the situation or situations, and literally move on.
Should your driver be ex-military or ex-law enforcement, or should you look for someone from within the company, with no prior experience? I think it all depends on the mission requirements. If you’re living and working in Bogotá, South Africa, or parts of the Middle East, you want someone very qualified (ex-military / ex-law enforcement): trained in EP work, armed, and a part of a protective team.
Keep in mind that security driving is a skill, and that driving is not always easy, especially if something unusual is happening (thus explaining why 2,500 Americans are killed each year in rollovers of SUVs, vehicles which require professional training to drive safely in unusual circumstances). Remember that after a driver is trained, they need to maintain that attitude of always learning and always training. This driver has found that two driving schools per year are sufficient to maintain the appropriate skill level and degree of readiness.
How well-trained a driver do you need? In the U.S., where the threat level is low, a person trained in protective driving techniques by a reputable security school (there are several good schools in U.S.) would be sufficient for driving the CEO. Most courses are two or three days in length, but can be longer if taken in conjunction with an EP course. Before signing-up for a school one should do their homework and check out the school before any money is exchanged or reservations are made.
One last thing on EP / driving schools. I have found that most of the training offered is the same from school to school, but that I still learn something different from each school. Once the driver is done with the school, they should keep their instructor’s name and contact information on file, and follow-up with them from time to time to ask for advice, or share an incident where their training helped you. I have found that most instructors like hearing from their former students, plus it helps in building their contact list. It’s a small world out there, and you never know when your driver may be working a detail and run into a former instructor or fellow classmate.
Here is some of the information that is covered in EP / driving schools
• Analysis of terrorist attacks
• Route analysis
• Surveillance detection
• Attack recognition
• Countering surprise
• Instinctive driving exercises
• Weapons (if applicable)
• Immediate first aid
• Vehicle search techniques
• Night driving
So now you’re driver is ready for the driver’s seat, has been trained, and has the correct mindset: It’s show time! Here are some points a driver should keep in mind while performing their EP / security driver duties.
• Utilize your training
• Take care of your vehicle and it will take care of you
o Check vehicle fluids
o Keep track of tire pressure and tread condition
o Read and know your vehicle owners manual
• Be on time
• Look sharp (clothes, shoes, et cetera)
• Develop contacts
• Use your training aids
• Be aware, including awareness of people seen again and again at different times or in different places.
• Constantly ask yourself “What if…,” or even better, “What when….”
• Be prepared for situations, and adjust quickly to them.
Also, drivers need to take care of themselves. They need to eat properly as much as possible, and stay away from junk food, sweets, and soft drinks. Eat fruits, vegetables, low-fat meats, and drink plenty of water. I know it can be tough for a driver – or you – to try and squeeze in a regular exercise program, but it can be done. Exercise when possible: fifteen to twenty minutes on a treadmill or ski machine or stationary bike are extremely beneficial. If possible, a thirty-minute program of strength-training exercises is good. Stretching is good.
Your driver must be able to work with the executive secretary and both executive and non-executive staff: This is key in executing their duties. The executive secretary or executive assistant is invaluable in assisting them with their security driver duties. On the flipside, as your driver gets more comfortable in their position, situations will arise in which they will be able to return the favor. It’s a team concept. Viewed that way, it will help in building a team atmosphere among the troops.
Also, I have found that developing business relationships in the city or area in which the driver works is extremely beneficial. As they are out driving with you, they should develop contacts with law enforcement, fellow corporate drivers, travel personnel, et cetera. They need to develop and nurture these contacts: They could be beneficial in the performance of their duties.
I like to think that what goes around comes around in anything we do. By being professional and courteous, by always learning, and by always, always doing the right thing, your driver will be successful in the field of executive protection and security driving.
One last thing: Good communication is very important not only between you and your driver, but between you and your driver’s corporate security manager or director. One must remember that it is usually the security manager or director who approves your driver’s training, and has significant input when it comes to approving a pay raise. Bobby Gillham, The Global Security Manager for ConocoPhillips, has always been there for this driver, as have all the accomplished professionals on our corporate security staff.