Preparation or Paranoia?

Paranoia photo

Preparation or Paranoia?

Is it better to be prepared or paranoid? Can you be over-prepared? Well, it might be more of a matter of perspective. Being paranoid can actually help you identify gaps, it's just easier to assume everyone is a threat. But, some-times being prepared is much easier to maintain than having to be paranoid and unsure that your mitigation rules and procedures will be able to stop an attack in time, or perhaps even before it can realize.

Why does this happen?

Why do we fall into a state of paranoia? Is it really paranoia when we evaluate the state of things in the world we face today? I sort of want to say that the fact we need to barricade ourselves in our own homes should probably tell us that we might be way past the point of paranoia. Of course it would be unhealthy to constantly be in that state. But, how do you move away from paranoia into a state of preparedness? Will you ever really be prepared for everything? Sure, being properly prepared can help reduce strain and stress, and direct more attention to where it is more critically needed. But then what is it you need to be prepared for? The truth is, you simply cannot always be prepared for everything, all the time. I certainly do not want to feel more stressed out on a family trip out to town than actually relaxing for a change. And if you ask any CPO, it gets tiring to be on a constant state of awareness. And although I do stress the importance of awareness, I also need to warn about the dangers of paranoia. I mean, is that six year old really planning to mug me? Or is the over dressed dude with the baseball cap and aggressive stance really just a friendly by-passer in the parking lot?

Will it make a difference?

It's never a bad idea to know what your go-to action should be with possible scenarios you might encounter. It's dangerous to assume that what we train for will be the only reality we will get to face. So, when you are certain of what is going on and what is not, you can overcome the state of paranoia and rather focus on things that require more of your attention and things you can have some form of control over. I do not want you to try and control everything. But make sure you have some form of control, like having a task covered by a team-mate or spouse or outsourcing it. Preparing a detailed risk-assessment will help identify where you need to focus on and what measures need to be trained and perfected more.

Think of it as a type of contact sport

If you want to score, you need to be on the attack. But, often you will need to defend your post as well. Proper, prior preparation will determine how quickly you neutralize the attacking team, regain control and get back on the attack. The reality is you will take some blows. But you can greatly control the outcome of those blows, with blocks and countermeasures.

This is where some of us tend to overdo it and look more like we are moving into a state of paranoia. We carry 3 sets of briefs and plan our routes in such order that we will get the opportunity to use them after we wet ourselves. And while we over plan for the most common things, we neglect to properly align ourselves to the actual threat (that was supposed to be identified with proper risk assessment) and make the one with a greater probability of realizing our main focus. Maybe I could avoid needing three pairs of briefs and identify the threat moving into position. Then I can act on it before it can realize.

Just like our contact sports, we practice different plays beforehand. And we try to stick to them rather than work things out whilst on the field. But if we only focus on our play, we potentially miss what the opposing team might be positioning us to do. So it makes sense that a lot of us tend to lean more to the side of paranoia. We need to have basic plays in our arsenal that are tested and perfected, both for defending and for attacking.

So it gets confusing, right?

It doesn't have to. The key is to identify common plays that you will need to succeed in. In boxing, for example, you might be able to use one block more effectively than another. So use that as your basis, as your go-to block. Something you can always rely on to keep you in the fight, no matter what the opponent throws at you. And perfect it. But never stop there, that specific block might be in-effective against another type of martial arts or weapon. So for that reason you need to know what type of opponent you are likely to be facing, and prepare for that. Think about the whole "never bring a knife to a gunfight" type of scenario. Whenever I get into a self-defense training type of talk with someone, I always coin what Bruce Lee taught the world: Focus on a handful of things you can master and execute with perfection, rather than try and learn every move. This eliminates the probability of your mind getting cluttered and possibly creating a delayed response, which we all know in our environment could prove fatal! Focus on, for example, five things, create the neural pathways, and hone them in. And when you need to act, your options are limited to just those five, thus reducing your reaction time. Think about the fight/flight/freeze response again.

Whenever I have no idea what to do with specific information. I pass it on to another teammate or outsource it completely. Like having someone to do some background check or research on a specific name or company etc. This might give you a better idea of what to look out for while on the task and what to pay more attention to. You do not want to be on a task and having to spend more attention on every little person and thing around you and not have much attention span left to focus on the actual threat determined by your preparation tactics (pre-determined threats). So while on the task, your mind will not need to wander all over the show and start questioning things that could have been mitigated before-hand.

If you want to know if you are over-prepared, ask a colleague to review some things for you. Doing this, helps you get more professional insight and, the colleague might identify some spaces you do lack in and help identify sectors you tend to overdo. Who knows, maybe that just might shed some weight from your tasking. Or perhaps it helps indicate something you might have missed initially?

When you operate in a team environment, everyone must be aligned. Why should each member plan their luggage when one or just a few more extra hands can manage and transport kits and or equipment? Or you might want to make sure you mention your concerns to the team, no matter how ridiculous it may sound. You never know how the risk that you're thinking of, is being mitigated by another member if you never ask.


Do what you are tasked to do and do it well! Only then can you improve on less-likely sectors that can be improved or perhaps cut out completely. Like having to carry a first-aid kit on your person, but you spend most of your day inside a vehicle or office space. So you can rather have a more sophisticated kit stashed at one of these locations or in the vehicle for example. I sincerely hope this was more informative than confusing, and if you feel that you still don't grasp it yet, comment below or drop me an email and I'll get back to you with more insight.

Interested to learn more? See the following links:

Principal profiling

Physical security threat assessment


Awareness training

Action plan

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 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...


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.


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.

What is Tactical response?


What is Tactical Response?

I'm sure most of us have been intrigued by the facade of armed men dressed in tactical gear, manipulating firearms and other awesome gadgets all whilst moving as one man through buildings and taking out bad guys with 2 shots to the body and one to the head (You know, just to be sure). Although we most famously associated with the S.W.A.T teams from American movies. These tactical teams can be seen broadly from all corners of the world, from police forces, military, private security, and private military. For the focus of this website, of course, I will explain Tactical response in the private security industry.

So what is it?

Tactical response teams are normally considered to be a team of armed response officers trained in various weapons and tactics. Where the primary weapons would be some form of carbine or shotgun and s side-arm capable of carrying high capacity magazines. Combined with some team dynamics, these teams can be effective in combating higher levels of threat.

What type of training is required?

The typical training most of these officers receive would be from some form of military or police experience. Fortunately and also sometimes, unfortunately, a lot of these officers receive training from reputable private companies who specialize in training and development within the private industry. Most of these instructors come from some special units in which they served within law enforcement or military fields. Also, this type of training comes with a price, and most of the officers who have no prior experience would have paid for their training out of pocket. Or if your local service provider thinks some of their normal security personnel might deserve a greater chance in the private sector, they might pay for that training. These newly trained officers will repay the company with services rendered over a set period.

Onto the weapons...

So, as mentioned, carbines and pistols rule in the tactical industry. But also worth mentioning is the other effective weapons these guys get to play with, for instance:

  • Knives
  • Batons
  • Pepper spray/guns
  • Gas/smoke grenades
  • Flashbang grenades

Worth taking to mind is that different countries have different laws governing these officers and their allowed gear and weapons. For instance, South-Africa does not permit the more round stuff that goes boom after 3 to 5 seconds of pulling the pin. So please check with your current laws and regulations before buying the whole team those katanas!


Of course, special units need special gear, and with all the toys these guys carry, a lot of space and adaptability are needed! You want:

  • Bulletproof vests and plate carriers
  • Interchangeable pouches
  • Slim radios and earpieces
  • Medical kits
  • Flashlights and batteries
  • Knee and elbow protection
  • Gloves and a beanie
  • Shades...

And the optional favorites of course:

  • Helmets
  • Balaclava
  • Night/Thermal vision
  • Patches, and a lot of them.

It's up to each officer to decide what works for him when it comes down to 12-hour shifts in the private industry.

What vehicles do they use?

So now they've got all the right gear and all the sweet toys to stuff it full with, but, how do they get to the scene?

Not with local transport, that's for sure. A sturdy vehicle, like a small truck, or as we SA guys call it, a bakkie is preferable. Even a small SUV will work. Now I'm sure to step on some toes here, but a car normally has a lower profile, though they might be faster, they don't climb curbs all that well and generally don't provide for much space. I'd much rather be using something that can keep up with traffic but be able to climb onto a sidewalk or speed through an open field when you're chasing someone who typically does not want to be caught.

What authority do they possess?

Now, this is where the lines can get fuzzy...

As private security, the law will be a certain issue. Do they act right? are they permitted to use force and how far are they allowed to go to protect their assigned clients?

Again, check with your own country and its laws! Although it is quite clear that reasonable cause calls for reasonable force, I have had to struggle with this in my career a few times. Am I acting according to law, or does the situation call for more action, which might be seen as unlawful? I don't wish to say that a more specialized unit should always act in self-defense, but that is the rule of thumb here.

So does it work?

Is it a good idea to upgrade to a tactical response unit? If the threat is credible, if your situation calls for it and if you can afford it, then Yes, it is worth it, and it can work for You. But be sure to integrate such a service correctly. Just parked outside your home, office, or business, whilst they could be better of patrolling the premises together with your normal guards will be more productive and effective. Having them close enough when needed is essential, but when it's not credible, you could be better off to direct that money spent, into better use, for instance, to upgrade to a 24-hour off-site monitoring service.

Do You need it?

As I stated earlier, if the situation calls for it, then yes, You do. I will not rely on normal guards or a single armed response officer to respond to a bigger office building. I would also say yes when you have a credible threat that normally armed response officers are not fit to deal with. So, with that said, I suggest you do a thorough risk analysis and threat assessment before making that expensive call.


A private tactical response team can be valuable if they live up to the required level of performance. To me, a single response officer, responding alone, is not a tactical officer, rather an armed response officer trained in tactical work. Not the same as an actual Tactical team! And as I always emphasize, make sure they stay up to date with training and industry development!