A close call with an assassin!

It's not too often that I get to go abroad for work anymore. Sometimes as the CEO I find it necessary to vet local partners personally in order solidify relationships as well as keep myself grounded in the realities my employees face while working in foreign locations.

I recently decided to conduct an audit of one of our local Ukraine partners and was given a much needed confirmation of why we do what we do and the reason we focus so much energy and resources on intelligence collection.

We offer tailored solutions to our clients regarding security and often that takes us into the Executive or Close Protection security discipline. When sending protection details to countries like Ukraine, we focus about 90% of our efforts on crisis avoidance and the rest on reaction (through consistent training). In other words, we look for ways to avoid the common and catastrophic threats that might cause our client's health, safety, business continuity or reputation to be damaged.

We find that common threats like crime are easier to avoid through data analysis and the examination of common tactics criminals use. The same goes for traffic threats as well as health threats. The greatest challenge we face is planning to avoid the low probability, catastrophic events. The "one off" obscure situation that is difficult to plan for or see coming.

I was working in Kiev with our local partners, observing how they conduct operations and do advance (reconnaissance) work when we came dangerously close to one of those "one off" situations. We observed the aftermath of the assassination of the former Russian lawmaker Denis Voronenkov.

We were about one block away taking pictures of a location when the event happened and were close enough to see the victim bleeding out on the sidewalk. As we quickly left the area, I was able to take some pictures of emergency responders blocking off the Premier Palace Hotel and covering the body. I remember going over in my mind, how we would have reacted had the client been with us at that time. It would have been quite different.

So how do you plan for something as obscure as periphery involvement in a political assassination? Is it possible to see something like that coming and avoid it? The event took place in a fairly nice (Kiev standards of course) neighborhood. Without knowing the victims schedule or identity, it's all a matter of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Let me clarify, we are not talking about the Russian ministers avoidance of the assassin, but the clients ability to not be nearby when it takes place.

We were lucky in this instance, but a situation like this would require a combination of intelligence gathering and a response that must be rehearsed and swift. Although it may be hard to avoid a situation like this, (which is of course the ultimate goal) there is a reason why security professionals are constantly training to respond in an appropriate manner. Many people imagine a "Bodyguard" wrestling with the assassin to detain or disarm him, but in reality the goal is to cover the client and as quickly as possible get him/her out of the threat area.

This brings us back to the reason why our partners were doing that advance (recon) work in the first place. Routes going to and from locations frequented by the client must be mapped out and memorized as well as alternates and even tertiary options. In this instance the best evacuation route would have been by foot, even though a vehicle was on hand. The traffic created by the incident made it impossible to move quickly out of the area. Traffic patterns during certain times of day can have an effect on evacuation. Again, collecting that intelligence is paramount to providing real, viable options for swift evacuation.

While it is important to maintain the ability to move quickly (physical fitness) and potentially fight off an attack (before or during evacuation), it really comes down to knowing the routes and initiating the plan. Appropriate reaction is extremely important, but the majority of the focus must be on intelligence collection and planning.

We pride ourselves on being an intelligence driven company. We know that if we continue to collect the information and plan accordingly, the reaction will be appropriate. The next time we are confronted with a political assassination (hopefully never), we are confident the reaction by our personnel will save lives.