Fight/Flight/Freeze

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Fight/Flight/Freeze

We've all heard of this one before, and even see it all over, mostly without realizing it! But what is happening to someone who is instinctively responding to stressful situations? Some people automatically jump into a fighting stance and flip the switch from friendly to the enemy without flinching. Others shift into 5th gear and blast off faster than most modern race cars, and some even "freeze" completely and don't budge until they figure out it's time to act or already took the brunt of the blow.

What is it?

The fight/flight/freeze or acute stress response is an automatic reaction/response that takes over when a person suddenly comes under a form of distress. It could be something that causes physical pain, a mental breakdown of some sort, or a sudden rush of emotion, like being frightened, and of course from a psychological threat like having to present a very important presentation in front of people. It is a rush of hormones that are released by your body, to activate a series of reactions, which is intended to help you perform better.

The signs of stress:

It is easy to recognize, and many different signs show up when the response kicks in. Such as:

  • Increased heart rate and fast-paced breathing: Your heart rate increases and the rate of breathing increases to rush more energy and oxygen to strengthen the muscles and brain function.
  • Pale/Flushed Skin: Because blood is now flowing at increased rates through your body, you might become pale or flushed. Another bonus of this is that the clotting ability of your blood increases to help prevent blood loss in the event of injury.
  • Dilated Pupils: Dilated pupils allow for more light to enter the eyes, and that makes for better vision. Better vision helps to see incoming attacks more easily and be more vigilant of your surroundings.
  • Trembling: Trembling is normally seen as bad, but this means that your muscles are ready for action!
  • You don't seem to feel pain: Ever heard someone say they only started to feel the pain after the confrontation? It is not uncommon, and it can be of great advantage when faced with a life-or-death situation.
  • Heightened senses: Our senses are natural and under subconscious control, and under stress, they take over. Some smells might draw your attention, some colors might trigger emotions and the slightest touch on your skin can make you react.
  • Memories can fool around: Depending on the situation, you might remember things clearly, partially, or nothing at all!
  • Uncontrollable bladder: Sometimes your body wants to get rid of extra weight or unnecessary tension. That means, you might urinate yourself or worst-case scenario, find a nasty, smelly surprise waiting for you after the initial brunt of reactions.

Positive stress reactions:

Physical:

  • Pale Skin
  • Sweating
  • Fast Breathing
  • Watery eyes
  • Trembling / Facial Twitches “grimacing”
  • Major muscle tension
  • Dry mouth & Throat
  • Increase in blood pressure
  • Faster pulse
  • Impaired vision
  • Stomach & Bladder stops functioning

Mental:

  • The subconscious mind takes over “instinct”
  • A dramatic decline in conscious logical thinking
  • Loss of concentration
  • Highly tensed and emotional
  • Rapid brain function

Negative stress reactions:

Visual:

  • Tunnel vision
  • Blurred vision
  • Magnified vision
  • Loss of vision

Auditory:

  • Selective hearing
  • Hearing is blocked or dampened

Mental:

  • Heightened fear, anger, resentment & anxiety, etc.
  • Increased cultural sensitivity
  • Reaction due to social conditioning more evident

Physical:

  • “Freezing” - denial
  • Defecating, urinating, and nausea
  • Fainting
  • Lack of reality perception
  • Daydreaming
  • Mental Memory Flashes
  • Distraction
  • Physical Discomfort
It is common to hear individuals boldly stating how they will react when some form of stressful event occurs, such as a sudden attack. But this is just perceived control, and it can be very dangerous. How you think you would react when not under stress, is not a clear indication of how you would most definitely react when it happens. We tend to exaggerate our abilities under normal conditions, and when suddenly met with aggression or stressors, the lack of control is visible. We can either be over aggressive in non-life-threatening situations, such as someone simply wanting to frighten you, or you might be too calm when it is necessary to be more aggressive, like when facing a life-threatening situation.

The fight/flight/freeze response is an ancient and very important reaction that automatically takes-over. But, not learning how to control it and not differentiating from life-threatening situations and non-life-threatening situations can cause it to run more continuously and unnecessarily. So it is not good to run your mind and body under a constant state of stress! Not only will you be overwhelmed and "jumpy", but you will be unable to identify a real life-threatening situation when it calls for reaction from your flight/fight/freeze response.

You need to learn more about yourself, both mentally and physically. What triggers your response, how can you minimize it and what would be a more preferable response when you are triggered to react. Is it more beneficial for you to relax completely and hand over your possessions when confronted, or will putting up a fight for your life be the sure way to react? The answer will change from situation to situation. So you need to learn more about the types of situations you might have to face.

Another way to gain more control over this natural reaction is through physical training. Fitness can decrease stress overall, by improving heart-rate, better sleep, and increasing endorphins. Also doing practical training, such as first-aid training, any form of martial arts or even regular visualization can greatly improve the way you react under stress.

It is also beneficial to maintain a good amount of social support. You might find that spending time with certain individuals or groups, such as friends, family members or your spouse reduces your stress levels. It might also help you remember why it is that you do what you do and boost your motivation and will power to tackle stressful situations.

Conclusion

It might not seem so significant to try and improve your stress reactions and take more control over your natural responses such as the fight/flight/freeze response. But it can certainly help shave off some very crucial seconds to your reaction time, and help your decision making when you need to think ab=nd act fast, whether you determine it is much better to run or to stand your ground. Every decision will differ from the previous, you might want to react more carefully when you are around family members as to not provoke aggressors, and you might want to react more aggressively and jump into action when you are alone or the situation calls for you to be the aggressor. Studying your own body and its natural responses are great fun and improve your skillsets indefinitely!

Interested to learn more? See the following links:

https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/understanding-the-stress-response

https://qz.com/841879/by-taking-advantage-of-the-bodys-fight-or-flight-response-we-can-enact-change-in-the-world/

https://leadchangegroup.com/secret-steps-using-stress-advantage/

Principal profiling

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Principal profiling

What is it?

A principal profile is the use of accumulated knowledge of your principal's characteristics, history, and behavioral patterns to establish a general idea of who your principal is, how he might react to certain situations and if he might be living a high/low-risk lifestyle.

Why use it?

You simply cannot design a protection detail for any principal if you do not have a good idea of who the principal is and how he/she functions. The principal profile will contribute to your threat assessment. To complete the principal profile you will need to ask a lot of questions and do a lot of digging. Information is critical for principal profiling. The principal profile is also essential to indicate what level of threat your client is at and what the nature of the threat is.

Risk factors

Each principal profile will be unique from one to the next.
There will also be varying risk factors and levels of threat from one client to the next. So for you to draw up the most applicable protection detail and contingencies,  you have to know what it is you will be facing.

It might seem odd

Some questions at the start might seem irrational or inappropriate even, but at a later stage may prove to be the key in finding out why an attack might be made on your principal and possibly even how and which type of attempt might be made, or, you might even find that your client does not need your services at all.

What should it tell me?

Your principal profile should be able to draw a picture of one of the following scenarios:
1) A threat has been made towards your principal because of who he/she is.
2) A threat has been made towards your principal for who he/she represents.
3) A threat has been made towards your principal for what he/she represents.

Should I just go with the info my principal provides?

A principal may neglect to mention key factors when you run solely on his/her discretion and believe everything he/she says without running your investigation. You can easily find yourself in an unwanted and potentially career-damaging position when you are ill-informed or unprepared for a scenario.

Consider the 7 P's

1) People - The principal and closest relatives, friends, and business partners.  We must get to know on a professional level, the people that our principal comes into contact with every day or constantly. Clients are related to many people in lots of different ways. Either by blood, marriage, friendship, business, leisure, casually or intimately. Relationships can be a cause of many a problem.
2) Places - Places the principal and close relatives frequently visit. Where people are born, where children go to school, where they work, spend holidays, live, dine, and play, are all important things to know when assembling the principal profile.
3) Personality - Of the principal. The personality of your principal can draw different types of attention. Depending on the type of personality your principal has, it can draw unwanted attention, obsessive, and potentially dangerous persons. Especially some more adamant business people can have strong personalities that might aggravate others.
4) Prejudices - Prejudices are pretty simple. Many people develop prejudices from a very young age, past down from previous generations, and others form prejudices through personal experience. But they are real, and they can cause problems. You need to be aware of your principal's prejudices and ready to de-escalate any situation that can occur because of it. Also knowing the prejudices of potential attackers will help in identifying how and why an attack might occur. There are different types of prejudices, such as Culture, Race, Religion, Sex, Age, Controversy, Class, and even Nationality to mention a few.
5) Personal history - The history of your principal can provide crucial information that will help establish the profile of your principal. It might also help establish a picture of who might be posing a threat to your principal. You should look at the following, and any other things you might think of that is important to your principal.
- Schooling / Education / Qualifications
- Careers / Positions held
- Full name and title / Know name / Aliases
- Family members (current and previous) / Children
- Honors / Distinctions / Achievements
- Place of residence (Current and previous, family members) / Place of birth
- Medical history / Allergies / Medications / Blood group
- Marital status / Previous spouse
- Nationalities (previous and current)
- Languages
- Military service
- Political history
- Convictions
6) Political/religious views - This one cannot be missed or neglected. A person's political standing can make others unhappy. This could trigger an attack unknowingly or cause colleagues to act violently. You need to know what is the principal's political standing and is he/she an active member of a political party, and whether he will participate in political events.
The principal's religious believes and virtues will indefinitely cause some sort of unwanted result at one point or another. Knowing what your principal's religious standing is and how he/she was raised, will help to establish protocols and responses. You should be able to anticipate unwanted attention and work around them.
7) Private lifestyle - A principal's private lifestyle can expose him/her to various threats and situations. Some things are very confidential and you need to be aware that a protection officer might have to know things about the principal that can and will cause great damage to the principal's reputation. If you are uncomfortable with any of the principal's private lifestyle choices, it is best to move on to another project. But the more we know about the principal, the better we can prepare ourselves for unwanted scenarios. Think of some of the following questions:
- Does your principal work long hours? Is it from home or late hours at the office?
- Does your principal commit adultery?
- Does your principal like to visit clubs or other institutions? Does he/she like to entertain friends at home? or does he/she prefer to spend time alone with family?
- Is your principal an outdoors person, or a sportsman/woman?
- Does your client participate in more risky hobbies/sports such as racing or fighting?
- Does your principal prefer to drive his/her vehicles or utilize a chauffeur?
- Does your principal like to travel a lot or internationally?
- Does your principal enjoy a high-profile lifestyle and flaunt possessions/assets?
- Is he/she a substance abuser?
- Is your principal a workaholic?
You can get creative with the questions and learn to ask more specific things as time goes on.
Conclusion:
After drawing up your principal profile you should be able to see key traits in your principal's personality and be able to identify if he/she is either a High-risk, Medium-risk, or Low-risk profile and use it to help formulate contingency plans. You will also be able to identify what type of people and organizations might want to threaten your principal and identify if they have the necessary motivation to follow through with the threat.
Read more one prejudices @ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prejudice
Learn more about different personality traits @ https://www.livescience.com/41313-personality-traits.html

Physical security threat assessment

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 Physical security threat assessment

First of all, if you think this is just for professionals, don't be misguided! A threat assessment can be implemented by any person eager to improve their security at home, place of business, office, ranch, farm, flat, or even just a single room! It is just a simple step-by-step system that has been developed over a couple of years, and can be used by anyone willing to put some thought and research into it!

Why use it?

One of the most common risks an organization runs is stagnant and non-evolving security measures. Unfortunately, these things can only be addressed if it is known to the organization. For that reason, it is necessary to perform a complete threat assessment. Sadly, too often a comprehensive threat assessment is missing completely or never updated. So it's your responsibility as the Advisor/Consultant/Team-leader/Security manager or head of the house to make sure that all the risks are reduced to an acceptable level.

The biggest mistake most organizations make is waiting for a safety breach or incident to happen before they implement mitigation strategies. Preparing a thorough threat assessment will undoubtedly help in improving overall security. It will also help in identifying which preventative measures to implement and reduce the risk of possible threats.

Any organization will always have some form of physical threat. Whether it's from general crime, human error, or even natural elements. Physical security is not a one-size-fits-all package. It gets very specific to the organization itself, especially when it comes down to demographics and location.

Before we start

Before we go any further, you should have a clear knowledge of the differences between risk, threat, and vulnerability. If you are unsure or just need a little refresher to make sure you are on the right track, you can learn the difference >Here<. It's also important to note that there are different methodologies out there and each one probably works, but will not necessarily be comfortable for everyone. That's why you need to learn from each of them and develop something that you are comfortable to use.

That being said, you should make sure that the following points are covered in your assessment:

  •  Buildings, assets, and vehicles are characterized
  • Undesirable events should be identified
  • The consequences of those events should be determined
  • The types of threats should be identified
  • Testing and analyzing the protection security systems and procedures
  • Complying with law and regulations
  • Identifying reasonable control measures needed

To formulate the assessment:

Formulating a threat assessment can be done by following these 5 steps:

1) Characterizing facilities

So it should be obvious that you should first know what the actual basis is that your working with. The boundaries of the site, where buildings are on the site, all access points, floor plans, procedures in place, and current security measures if any should be noted. You will need to reach out to some contacts to get all of this information and make sure it is as accurate as possible. Depending on how long the organization has been up and running, you will be able to use things like building blueprints, municipal reports, security SOP's and IAD's, previous threat assessments and reports, environmental reports, site surveys, and a few more.

2) Now you need to determine what events are undesirable to the organization (the risks)

This will vary for every organization. Any crime or disruption in operations is undesirable, and sometimes you might be called in to address something specific, like for instance theft among employees or a physical threat that has been made known to the organization. The following are things to look for:

  • The crime rate in that specific area and also if there are high-risk areas close by.
  • Industry-specific crimes, for example, drug stores and banks will have different types of specific risks related to their trade.
  • Common crime, things like theft and crimes of opportunity.
  • The number of people who will be accessing the organization's infrastructure
  • Cameras and other monitoring systems
  • Lack of manpower
  • The political and religious standing of the organization can also attract more risks
  • Training of staff or team members
  • If there are any direct threats to the organization or one of its high-ranking officials

So now that you have your whole list of risks compiled. Its time to rank them in order of probability, frequency, and impact. Let's say you score each risk on each of these factors on a scale of 1 to 5. Then add up the total of each risk. So the higher the total (the probability and impact), the higher the risk, and that is a threat to the organization. In another column, you can add the control measures that are currently in place if any, and deduct that from the total of the other 3 columns. So if there is good access control currently in place you would score that higher than no access control.

Another important thing to look for is any vulnerabilities the organization has. These will be risks that are not addressed at all and have a good probability of happening, and also possible risks that will have a significant impact but are not being controlled. However, this is only vulnerabilities visible on paper, when on-site and assessing the buildings and controls, you will most likely find more vulnerabilities. This includes out-dated and defective equipment and uncontrolled areas.

3) SOP and IAD's

I would like to separate Standard Operational Procedures and Immediate Action Drills a bit as it is something that is being badly neglected. SOP's and IAD's are as important as any other security system in place, without it there is no guidance in reaction and things often turn out quite bad or undesirable to an organization. Once again the organization's aim should be kept in mind when drawing up these procedures. I like to look at procedures before implementing mitigation as it will assist a great deal when it comes to cost, as you will likely see how much man-power and how much equipment is needed to achieve operational objectives.

The way your system integrates and reacts to threats is an important risk to look at. If the response is slow, the risk is greater, if the response is incorrect, the risk increases. I am pretty sure you get the picture here. A common risk when it comes to applying IAD's or responding to a threat is when all staff members rush to the location of the threat, leaving their areas of responsibility unattended and opening up the proverbial back-door for intruders to sweep in unnoticed. Identify roles and responsibilities for each threat and make sure every staff member knows it!

SOP's and IAD's should also be time/shift relevant! During holidays and night shifts for example there might be fewer staff members on duty. This can change things dramatically. There should never be any regulation changes, strict procedures should be attained at all times! The last thing you want is a burglary at night because staff members or cleaners left a door/gate unlocked or open.

Another thing to remember here is a detailed plan and list of immediate contacts that should be activated during emergencies or incidents. A touch of automation can be good in certain situations and again not so good during other situations. You do not want to be dropping security barriers and trapping employees inside when a fire breaks out, but dropping barriers when a deranged shooter tries to get access can be a good move. And also having a procedure of who to be contacted in case of more serious threats is very important! Will a tactical team be needed to respond from outside? Who will that be? do you have the relevant contacts and procedures to follow in case of a bomb threat? Who has to be contacted in case buildings need to be evacuated? Neighboring buildings could start burning, who do you contact then?

4) Addressing the threats

After you have compiled your list of risks and figured out what lacks in the procedures you should now be able to see the threats to the organization. Now you need to determine the course to be taken to minimize the risk of these threats. It should come as no surprise that the cost will greatly affect the course you will take. Staying within budget and getting maximum security optimization is not easy at all! Tip -This is where your contact list can be a great source of success.

Start by looking at the biggest threat on your list (the highest score one). What equipment will be needed to address it? Think of detection, cameras, man-power, and every other piece of equipment and training needed to reduce this threat to a lower score. A lot of times the same type of equipment and so on will automatically improve the other threats too. Or at least some of the same equipment and manpower can be used to tackle other threats.

Now re-asses the other threats according to the equipment, etc. that was added to the security system. From there, again, take the highest ranking threat and address it like the first one. Just continue this cycle until you can reach a reasonable level of risk from each threat. Always remember to KISS it as far as possible or use automation as much as possible, just be cautious of the cost factor, especially when it comes to software updates and such.

5) Analyzing system effectiveness

Physical protection systems should be described in detail before it can be tested! Ideally, you would like to stop a threat immediately and without any delay or negative outcomes and with as little as a possible disturbance in normal operations. But in reality, this rarely happens and one will always have to deal with some sort of shortcoming.

So to stop any threat you should first be able to identify it. A continuous threat assessment will outline threats and should be communicated with team members to remain effective and ahead of the threat. Team members should be trained in identifying abnormal behavior and activities, technology implemented and physical barriers used for this purpose. Strategically designing entries and exits can be just as valuable, to make sure any threat has to pass the detection phase before being able to access any facilities or inflict any damage to the organization.

After a threat has been detected, there should be a way to confirm that the detection is valid and of real concern and not just a nuisance alarm. This can be done via team members in contact with a Control-room/Security management or Team-leader. There should be good knowledge in the team about how criminals operate and how target selection works and everything that goes hand-in-hand with it. One can use the OODA loop to great effect here. Find out more about how the OODA loop works and the different phases criminals or a probable threat uses to select their attack right >Here<.

Once a threat has been confirmed, the aim is to delay the threat to get reaction forces to the threat and minimize its undesired actions. Of course, it is ideal for a team member that is in the vicinity already, to be able to neutralize the threat. But it is also ideal to have more than necessary force available. One adversary can be extremely determined or under the influence of narcotics and over-power or out-think a team-member and then become a more aggressive threat.  The effectiveness of response is measured by the time taken to get to the threat and to neutralize the threat.

So keep in mind that some organizations might require you to try and neutralize a threat without using aggressive force, I know, it's not something I am very much happy to say but to spare you a potential client or project you need to know how to act. And in this instance you need to know non-lethal options available, but, it is your job to convince these organizations about the reality we face each day. Organizations would likely want to avoid PR damage because of an unjustified shooting on their premises.

Testing effectiveness

To test the effectiveness you should be sure to fully understand all of the above points and what is required of your system to achieve maximum effectiveness. Only then can you define what is required and to be implemented. Once that has been put in place, there are a few ways to test its effectiveness, you could use penetration testing, call in other experts and run some drills over different times to see if detection and neutralization systems work. Nothing can prove effectiveness more than an actual criminal attempt, it's important for organizations to immediately assess their response after an attempt and identify any issues and improve on them.

Upgrading systems

If for whatever reason you can identify any viable threats after implementing mitigation strategies, you need to check for possible upgrades or changes in the system. This includes equipment, manpower, procedures, and software. When you implement new strategies or add anything you should again test for effectiveness, and repeat until the level of risk is acceptable. Always remember the cost affected with upgrades and additions or changes.

More on this topic

To follow up on this piece will be a few more posts regarding principal profiling and equipment and some more tips and tricks to help you formulate a threat assessment.

Until then, feel free to comment below!

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Cover vs Concealment

To cover, or to conceal

That is the question! But the answer is slightly more complicated. In basic terms, it sounds quite easy to differentiate. Cover is anything that effectively stops bullets. Concealment is anything that hides you from someone else's sight. Pretty simple right?...Wrong!
The most important thing you have to always remember: Cover is the one that's going to save you when things take a turn for the worse.
Cover
Cover is something that will not necessarily conceal your location but stop a bullet, or any other projectile being lunged toward you for that matter. Do keep in mind that some forms of cover can also deflect high-velocity projectiles and send them off into the unknown. You do not want to unwillingly send rounds to a teammate or someone else, and you probably will not be able to control this either. And, then there is the initial "kick" it will project onto whatever it is hitting, for example, a thick plate of steel hanging loosely in front of you will stop or deflect an incoming round, but will also probably kick back a bit and still send you off balance or if it is light enough, give you a nice slap in the face! The important thing, however, is to not be penetrated by any projectiles. Think of your bulletproof vest, for example, if you take a round from a 9mm at say 10m out, it will stop the projectile, but the force that was initially behind the projectile is now being spread into the size of your plates and that can leave you with a proper bruise and send you off balance.
It is also dependent on what the bad guy is shooting. Materials that will stop a 9mm or other pistol rounds will likely not stop more powerful rifle rounds for example.
In general, something that provides you with good cover also conceals you, but there are exceptions, like bulletproof glass for example. In the movies you see guys flipping dinner tables for cover or hiding behind some wooden wall while rounds are hitting it with no mercy, and walk away unscathed. That is not a good idea at all! Unless you have a table that's at least as thick as a small tee! And no, the door panels on your vehicle is not likely to stop even a .22 round! Unless you upgrade it with some good quality steel of proper thickness.
The only few things on your vehicle that will properly stop incoming rounds, are the engine, an axle (if it is big enough to hide behind anyway, and a good thickness wheel.
Keep in mind that cover should not limit your maneuverability too much, as you might still need to deal with the threat. You should either be able to shoot from behind it or when the threat changes position, you should be able to change accordingly as well. You do not want to be stuck in a small space and have a threat walk straight to you. The human body can also stop some projectiles, just do not use your spouse for that duty...

Concealment

If it doesn’t stop a projectile, then it is only hiding you. Which essentially is concealment. If you had to quickly hide behind a couch, you are concealing yourself from who/whatever is trying to find you. You know, like when the debt-collector makes a visit and you quickly lock the door, dive behind the couch and wait for him to leave. If he had to fire off a few rounds into the living room, you would likely have been hit behind the couch. Using darkness or shadows to hide in during the night or in poorly lit hallways are also a favorite way to go for criminals. You often do not see them there, but if you had to throw a rock into their direction, you would probably get a reply. Whereas if they were behind cover as well, you would have a hard time to know they are there.
It is just like the camouflage hunters use, they blend into the environment and conceal themselves from the unsuspecting game. Here in SA for example, our police forces wear a kind-off light blue uniform, which is not that easy to see during the night and is not reflective at all.

I often talk about not setting up bright lights facing toward your home, rather than facing outwards toward exterior walls, as that can be a great form of concealment for criminals scouting your home. Just as much as you cannot see a person from behind a flashlight during night time. The same concept applies. See this post to read about lighting up your yard.

Two dead giveaways exploit you from behind concealment: Noise and motion, Heavy breathing is very audible, and shaking from fear tends to shake and rattle lighter concealment, like curtains for example.

Conclusion:

Good cover is not that easy to find, especially when you are inside a building. So for this reason, you will need to utilize the concealment you have access to and move unnoticed to a place with decent cover, or to escape the threat. So if you're thinking about adding some decent cover to your home defense plan, I would suggest adding some bulletproof vest or blanket of some sorts in your safe room. If you do not have a safe room, I suggest you make one! However, adding some simple pieces of furniture, filled with something like solid wood, cement, or plating.

For more on home defense, read here.