Safe & Sound

April 4, 2008

Safe & Sound - By Hannah Shaw Grove , Mitch Gitter

Private security professionals rely on a range of activities to help their wealthy clients protect the things they hold most dear.

The ultra-affluent can often attract the less savory elements of society-in other words, criminals. Without question, the top priority of most wealthy individuals is the safety of their loved ones and themselves. These concerns prompt many of them to take precautionary steps. What follows are common approaches taken by private security professionals to help wealthy individuals and families protect human and capital assets.

Close Protection Personnel. Some segments of the affluent, say celebrities and CEOs, may already be familiar with bodyguards and have probably had one or more on their payroll at some point. Increasingly, we hear about lower-profile wealthy people asking for a more advanced and comprehensive form of defensive support. Often this requires personnel that can blend in with the client and their entourage, indiscernible to any source of threat. It also includes extensive advance work and reconnaissance, examining vehicles and buildings that clients and their loved ones will use, preparing emergency evacuation routes, and liaising with police and security organizations, when appropriate.

Transporter Services. This is a variation of close protection that is used when clients and their loved ones are moving between locations and require chaperones. The use of transporter services, like all other aspects of personal security for the affluent, is on the rise. Until recently, many types of transporter services were used primarily for property (see below); today specially trained chauffeurs in vehicles equipped with stun guns and tear gas grenades, backed by on-call retrieval teams, is becoming the norm.

Background Investigations. All too often, the weak link in a wealthy client's personal and professional life is people on the inside. Everyone with access to clients, their loved ones, their finances and their business interests should be thoroughly investigated. Moreover, such scrutiny should occur periodically and without notice to ensure the ongoing security of the family.

Identity Protection. Identity theft is the fastest-growing crime in the country. While it's a hit-and-run crime, the hit can be painful to wealthy individuals. We regularly find that many people don't adhere to the same level of precaution to protect their confidential information at home and in work environments. Education can go a long way toward mitigating identity theft, and continuously tracking the use of client identities can provide additional insurance.

Crisis Contingency Planning. Clients and selected loved ones are provided with training on how to manage a crisis situation. The training focuses on reducing the likelihood of such situations and how to minimize risk once a situation occurs. Training is based on simulation exercises including intense role-playing scenarios and small group discussion sessions. (For more information see "Pre-emptive Strike" in the Oct/Nov 2007 issue of Private Wealth.)

Self Defense. In a related vein, a recent trend is for the wealthy to assume more responsibility for their own protection. Schools and training facilities that previously worked exclusively with protection specialists are increasingly finding executives and wealthy individuals in their classrooms, at their firing ranges and enrolled in their defensive driving courses. The goal for most clients is to disable an attacker long enough to escape or for help to arrive. (For more information see "Eliminating Vulnerability" in the May/Jun 2007 issue of Private Wealth.)

Counter-Surveillance Services. Protecting the details of important and private personal and business interactions can be assured by regularly sweeping rooms and communications equipment, such as phones and computers, for surveillance equipment. Many of our affluent clients find that negotiations between two parties with conflicting agendas-divorces, contract terms, business transfers, deal and project development-can benefit from the use of counter-surveillance services.

High-Tech Security Systems. When it comes to residential security, options range from very basic to extremely sophisticated. Some state-of-the-art systems include outer perimeter detection that informs the homeowner if there is unauthorized movement on the property, intrusion detection for the exterior of the house and an alarm system in the house that features motion sensors, closed circuit cameras, laser grids and pressure-sensitive switches attached to the artwork. In some home systems, activating the alarms can automatically deploy features such as locking steel curtains that can detain intruders until the police arrive.

Safe Rooms. Safe rooms-sometimes known as panic rooms-are becoming a standard part of many buildings, especially those that may attract thieves and interlopers. A safe room can provide short-term protection as well as allow for direct communication with law enforcement and security professionals for the occupants of a home, yacht or office while they wait for help to arrive. A high-quality safe room should include cameras and monitors displaying the entrance to the room and other areas of the building, special ventilation that protects from chemical and biological agents, multiple ways to communicate with the outside world that cannot be easily disconnected or compromised, along with gas masks, bottled water and nonperishable food. Increasingly, safe rooms are being constructed to function as command centers from which the alarms and weapons such as non-lethal shotguns and tear gas-protecting the building can be controlled remotely.

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