Risks VS Threats

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Risk, Threat, and Vulnerability

Before any security detail can be put in place, you first need to determine the risks and threats that are present in your area of responsibility and the vulnerabilities they are open to. So, to start, it is very important to know the difference between risk, a threat, and vulnerability. I do however have to start by saying, this is just my explanation of how I see and measure Risk, Threat, and Vulnerability. You will indefinitely meet more people with more elaborate definitions or even some who sound quite the opposite of what I am going to attempt to explain in this post. So keep an open mind and try to KISS it. (Keep It Simple Stupid).

Here goes:

Risk: Risk is the potential for an unwanted result. For example a financial loss, loss of life, emotional trauma, or disruption of activities.

Threat: A threat is that occurrence or event that leads to, or causes the unwanted result (Risk). For example damage to infrastructure or property, murder, traumatic event, or sabotage. These events can happen by nature, the lack of maintenance, wear and tear, or it can, of course, be inflicted/implemented by a person.

Vulnerability: A vulnerability is a specific flaw or weakness in a system or a design in general. Such as someone with an allergy, it is not necessarily a risk on its own, as long as it is avoided. It can, however, be exploited by a potential attacker and used as a method of attack.

A quick example:

You have a nut allergy (Vulnerability). A long-standing business partner wants to eliminate you by exploiting your allergy (Threat). If he is successful in his covert operation, you will most likely lose your life (Risk). So, for you to survive, you will have to devise a plan to test your food and drinks, or even anything that may enter your bloodstream. A habit of chewing your pen (Vulnerability) may even be used, by applying some peanut oil on the pen.

So you can also see that some vulnerabilities can be used in conjunction with another, to achieve a less suspicious attack. One can get quite creative once you learn to exploit vulnerabilities and determine the risk it carries.

A proper risk assessment can tell a very definitive story. Once you make the connections, you will know where to focus your attention and do what is necessary to avoid the risk. Some risks will require more attention than others, depending on your mission results.

Perhaps you are not a security operative or into Risk-Management, and you wonder how this methodology can help you in normal life?

Picture yourself driving down the street on your way home. Looking around, you notice a bunch of everyday things, like people walking on the sidewalk, some garbage bags alongside a bin or two, a few potholes in the road and here and there a tree leaning over to the side.

What can this simple picture tell you? What if someone slips and falls off the sidewalk right in front of your car? What if he is drunk and deliberately walks in front of the car to draw your attention? Did you compensate for that? What if one of the garbage bags is half-way on the road, forcing you to swerve into oncoming traffic? Same with the pothole, or it can also cause a tire to blow and force your vehicle to collide into oncoming traffic? And what if that tree starts to fall right as you attempt to drive past it?

Conclusion:

It's a simple equation, anything that can cause a negative outcome (Threat) when coupled with asking "what if", can lead to a Risk. Some more severe than others. So it's evident that a risk is something that could happen, and a threat is a likelihood with which that same thing can happen.

If you would like to read more advanced terminology and explanations, I suggest you visit: https://protectioncircle.org/2017/01/27/threats-and-risks/

Awareness training

Awareness

Awareness Training

Welcome to a series of posts about awareness! In a previous post, I talked about the importance of having yourself trained in the art of awareness and how it can help save your life. With the next few posts, I will take you through a whole course, to try and teach you the fundamentals of awareness. Use it, don't use it, it's up to you at the end of the day to apply the knowledge or not. Although I wish I could do it for you, unfortunately, I just can't. My only hope, for now, is that you apply it and continuously strive to learn more! Here we go...

Objectives of this series:

The objectives of this series of posts will include the following points:

  • Understanding how psychological actions can influence your survival probability
  • Improving your ability to evaluate and interact with your environment to increase your chances of survival in a life-threatening situation
  • Reading the signs

Understanding the background:

Like any other important topic, we need to look deeper into the background of awareness. To make it simple, you need to understand that criminals feed off of individuals' awareness, or the lack thereof anyway. They will generally wait for an opportunity where your awareness has been dropped or create a situation that causes your awareness level to be more relaxed or even completely sucker punch you both literally and figuratively.

There are 3 stages through which criminals would generally work through in anticipation of an attack:

  1. Selection
  2. Positioning
  3. The Attack

Let's dive into it:

Selection: So as discussed earlier, criminals would want to choose a target that is "easy" to quickly and efficiently attack. Meaning, they want to get what they want/need, get it with ease and as little resistance as possible, with the least likelihood of being caught or injured and with the highest risk to reward ratio they can get. And to achieve that, they have to carefully select their targets or create a scenario that gives them less risk and more reward.

The factors of the selection phase will vary from each situation, some criminals might not be afraid to get into a scuff, whilst others do not even want to be seen, more dangerous criminals simply might not give a damn and go all out Rambo on your ass just because they think they will easily take you down with their physical ability or even a more intellectual approach.

I cannot stretch enough the fact that criminals are not just "chancers" anymore and that they have evolved crime into a very lucrative business, and they will continue to do so for as long as crime exists! You increasingly see police officers, firemen, lawyers, security contractors, and even politicians getting involved in crime. And that just goes to show that, as always, crime pays! And more professionally trained individuals to join in. Just as we as protectors learn incredibly advanced skills to curb crime, they too can be well trained, especially with technology now bringing a ton of information right to your fingertips!

Positioning: After the target has been selected, the perpetrator will now work himself into the perfect position of opportunity. The positioning phase will feed of the selection phase in terms of what angle he might use with the least amount of risk and the highest chance of success. By positioning himself into the best angle of approach, he can be able to act swiftly and with great accuracy. Take for instance a man running down a crowded mall, clapping his shoes on the hard tiled floor, running toward a group of men that immediately notice him coming, his chances of successfully stealing something from one of the men are not too great are they? They will probably notice him from a distance. Now, take someone who is blending in with the crowd at a normal pace, right behind an old lady which has her purse loosely hanging from one arm....which provides the best opportunity? Grabbing the purse and then only to start running into a pre-planned escape route will be more challenging to block, right?.

The attack: Now he has his target set into sight, and he is positioned perfectly to his advantage, all that needs to happen now is proceeding with the attack. The attack might not necessarily be a physical pounding of a poor old lady's face, but maybe just jerking a purse hard enough to cause her to panic or jump into a state of fear. The more aggression an attacker shows, the more likely someone would be to co-operate. The attack again has many different varying factors, it might be lethal or non-lethal, it might include a weapon of some kind or it might just be a verbal assault or perhaps a persuasion that he has a lethal weapon on him which he does not. Think for instance the same guy had to walk up to the old lady, press his thumb into her thigh and demand the purse, or else he would drive the "thumb-knife" through her.

So how is all of this relevant to your awareness? Well, as you can see, there is a process that a perpetrator goes through before actually committing to a criminal act, that requires some time to go through. And, given that you know how to read these signs, you might curb his intentions by counter-acting his actions or at least buy yourself more time. You see someone observing you, you counter, you notice someone might be pulling up into a unique position, you act on it. You notice an attack is being made on you, well you have some time to re-position yourself and increase your chances of survival or escape.

This is part of a series of posts on awareness, be sure to check out the next post, where I'll explain the difference between soft and hard targets and how to make yourself less "attractive" to criminals.

“Once there is seeing, there must be acting. With mindfulness, we know what to do and what not to do to help.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh

“You look, but you don’t see”

Awareness

"You look, but you don't see"

So with the recent increase in armed robberies in my little home-town (About 2km wide and 3km long), many people have been making statements like: "they never saw it coming", "It happened so fast", "there was nothing I could do" or questions like: "How are we supposed to feel safe?" or, "how will you ever see something going on inside a premise/shop unless you just walk into it and realize its too late now?"....

While these are good questions and valid statements, it just emphasis on me the importance of awareness and continuous training. What makes this subject so difficult, is the fact that it is neglected so much, especially by civilian life. Most people simply continue with their everyday routines not giving even a brief thought to observing their surroundings and relating to themselves the possible risks and threats that are constantly around them. And what is more tricky to training awareness is that while your reading this post, you probably already started thinking and looking around you to see what I was talking about. This sub-conscious thinking forces your brain to look for specific details that you mentally picture it to see. But, being in this state of mind constantly is where the trick comes in. I bet not even 30 minutes from reading this post, you will most probably neglect to see the same threats you just saw. That does not imply that something is wrong with you, that's just how our brains work.

Think about it

Years ago I met an ex SAS operator and special forces instructor who now spends time training executive protection details. What was interesting to me, is that this seemingly calm man never carries a firearm in any detail anymore. That was impressive to me until he started drilling the next phrase into our minds: "You look, but you don't see". Then I realized, he was able to do that by simply observing and mentally picturing a set of outcomes, based on what he can not only see but perceive to be, realistically of course. Then he could most probably keep an attack from happening, by simply not giving it the power to happen. Reaching such a level of awareness and knowing you don't need a weapon to be powerful, is quite humbling.

But how was he able to do that?

Think of the following scenario which is quite common in the protection industry, military, and law enforcement environments:

A well-dressed man, with no obvious signs of aggression, even a smile on his face, walks up to a police officer. This may seem normal right? Now, from a trained officer's mind, there are lots of things happening, for instance: Who is this man? Did he identify himself? Why are his eyes red? Why would he have one hand in his pocket? Are that bloodstains on his sleeves? And why would a man dressed like him be in a place like this, which seems to be out of order for a man so well dressed?.... Do you see it yet? This elaboration is still simple to see right?. Yet so many things happen all around us that are completely out of place and most of us miss it completely! I'm certainly not saying everyone and everything is a threat, but everyone and everything should be questioned! And constantly as well! With such a huge lack of emotional intelligence in society today, anyone can simply "snap" and whoever is at the wrong place at the right time, will be the one to face the full blow of it!

Coming back to a scenario that occurred in my home town, how could you possibly know that something is wrong inside a shop or premises that you wish to enter? It's simple to me, I never go around sharp corners - I make sure there is enough space for me to jump back behind cover if need be. And, as far as I can, I take a brief moment to observe the parking space of any premises I approach. Is any vehicle strangely parked? Heck maybe someone is outside the door with a shotgun in hand?. Even if the parking seems safe, another brief moment just before I enter the door helps to let me see inside, and again give me those precious seconds I need to get out of there. Is this realistic for everyone and every situation? No, of course not. But I have a lot more training than most people, I know what to look for and how to read the signs.

As I sit here and write this piece, I start to wish there was an easier way to transfer the knowledge of awareness, but it simply cannot be taken that lightly. I mean, even scriptures teach of awareness! So clearly it must be something important right?

How to start using awareness:

First of all, its something you have to go into a deep understanding of if you want to be able to use it effectively. What I mean by that, is that you have to look at everyday things into more detail and understand what they can be telling you. When you drive down the street towards your home for example:

  • how many cars can you see?
  • What are the colors?
  • Are the license plate numbers relevant to your geographical location?
  • Are there occupants sitting in any of the cars?
  • Are any of the trees leaning, indicating that it might fall over at any moment?
  • Are there any small children playing dangerously close to the street?
  • What about flying balls in the neighborhood?
  • If you walk up to a door, are there any signs of intrusion?
  • Is anyone around you acting strangely?
  • Is someone dressed incorrectly for the current weather?

This list can go on and on and on! The principle stays the same, what or who is out of place? So you need to know how to identify that, and if you cant, then you need to learn how. I certainly do not wish to instill paranoia under anyone, and I have met many clients who seem to be living in paranoia, they think gang members come running down the street when a car back-fires 2 blocks down, or they assume someone is going to be breaching their home when the electricity unexpectedly turns off! This is paranoia, simply coming to terms with what you can control, identifying what you need to give attention to, and then training your mind how to do it key to awareness. You don't need to be able to count the number of people around you or be able to identify someone by the color of their skin tone or hair-color a few days after you walked past them in a grocery store. That way of thinking will have you burnt out by halfway through the day! Instead, look for key indicators!

President John F Kennedy once said - "It is an unfortunate fact that we can secure peace only by preparing for war". So go out there and prepare your mind for war. I will be posting some more awareness training advice soon.

For more reading on awareness follow this link: https://bigthink.com/artful-choice/dont-just-see-observe-what-sherlock-holmes-can-teach-us-about-mindful-decisions

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Home defense

Approaching the door

Approaching the door

In the previous 2 posts, we were discussing issues related to approaching your home from a vehicle or on foot/any other way. The next big step to take is learning how to approach the door after getting safely into your yard/driveway. This space can create a crucial pinch point and should not be neglected!

Once you are safely inside your driveway, there is still a risk of attack. A lot of attacks happen in this space. The biggest reason for this is that there is not much movement and other variables for the criminals to consider. They can easily hide inside your driveway or behind your house or whatever might be available, just waiting for your approach to the door. More preferably just after you unlocked the door. Then they strike comfortably, without having to worry much about being seen by someone else.

As you move to your front door, avoid using any electronic devices. Use natural lighting to scan for any shadows. Avoid going straight around sharp corners. Keep your eyes and ears open. Walk swiftly and directly to the door. Use a flashlight to scan dark spots.

These are the most common things to look out for:

  1. Silhouettes in the dark.
  2. Any signs of movement that is not a pet or family member.
  3. Any objects out of place, like potting plants, dustbins, or anything that is supposed to be inside your outhouse, garage, or home.
  4. Light at the front door is not working.
  5. Broken windows.
  6. Animals behaving abnormally.
  7. Your alarm system does not respond.
  8. Your neighbor’s alarm system is triggered.

Once one of these is noticed, I suggest the following reaction:

1 - 3. When you notice any moving shadows, it’s obvious that you are not alone. You need to escape immediately and activate your emergency plan. Contact emergency numbers and move as quickly away from your home as is possible. Only re-enter once your home is made safe by policing services or your security service. Any sign that indicates possible movement, whether from behind the house, behind you, in front of you, or on the roof, can just as well be an intruder. Do not write it off as an animal or the wind. Activate your emergency contacts and get out of your yard and away from your home as quickly as possible.

4. There can be various reasons for this such as a blown globe or neglecting to switch the light on when leaving. Use a flashlight to approach cautiously and be on high-alert. Clear around the corners before unlocking the door.

5. See steps 1 – 3.

6. Establish why they are acting abnormally and proceed with caution. Notify your emergency contacts of any suspicious behavior or if you suspect any problems.

7. You need to notify your emergency contacts. Phone your reaction company if you have any. Proceed cautiously if you suspect no problems. If you suspect any problems, call for assistance.

8. Get into your home as quickly as possible and watch for any movement outside. There is always a possibility of an intruder crossing over from your neighbor’s yard into yours. When this happens, activate your emergency contacts and get out of sight. Do not try to engage anyone, they might want to make you their next target, especially when they are being chased.

Tips:

  • When you are inside your yard, do not lower your awareness you need to raise your level of awareness to high alert.
  • Do not move around sharp corners, and keep equal space on both sides. When an attack comes from the left, move right. When an attack comes from the right, move left. Do not get backed into a wall, gate, or fence.
  • If possible, try to check around each corner of your home that is adjacent to the walls where your front door is located. This way you can be sure there is no one waiting for you to unlock the door before rushing upon you. And if someone is waiting further away, you create more time to react.
  • Keep a flashlight ready when you know that you will return during the night. Use it to scan all surroundings. This also de-motivates possible intruders, as it implies a higher level of awareness and greater risk to them.
  • When unlocking your doors, do not keep you’re back exposed. Try to stand next to your door instead of directly in front of it.
  • When locking your doors again, do it as quickly and calmly as possible. Constantly check for possible intruders rushing towards the door.
  • Install slam-lock doors or any door that locks without having to use the key, to reduce exposure time.
  • Have lighting installed at your front door. You want to be able to see properly when unlocking the door.

Keep bags on your back or shoulder. And smaller items in your pockets. You want your hands to be free to defend yourself. The only item to have in your hand is a panic button or cellphone ready to phone emergency contacts.

How strong is your approach to the door?