Let’s start here… we are by no means security experts or practitioners. We have never been CPO’s (Close Protection Officer or Bodyguard) and don’t intend to be for that matter. That said we deal with security, threats, risks and mitigating those risks through our products and services on a daily basis. 90% of our Armoured Rental clients are security organisations in the broader sense of the term, and a fair portion of our vehicles sold are operated or cared for by a CPO. The point being we are in the comfortable position of being able to observe, probe, listen and understand to a certain degree where an armoured car fits into a comprehensive security protocol.
However, considering the nature of the threat against motorists in South Africa, we are surprised that an armoured vehicle is still not at the top of the list or at least a priority in many security protocols and we see that far too often the recommendation for one is overlooked or brushed aside. It seems there are a few reasons for this:
- The risk to the principal is not assessed correctly or communicated clearly by the CPO/security provider.
- The security provider recommends alternative measures to the client which are within their own ambit and do not require a third party supplier at a lower margin.
- The principal does not approve the cost despite the clear and urgent recommendation of the CPO/security provider.
Before we unpack these and why we feel there is cause for alarm, let’s take a step back and understand what is meant by threat, risk and vulnerability. For a more detailed explanation refer to this article from Mobius International – https://mobius.international/threat-risk-vulnerability-assessments/
To summarise the points made by Mobius, these are the basics of a TRA (Threat and Risk Assessment). The fundamental core of close protection/personal security is threat assessment. Threats are very real dangers that are always present in your environment, and dependent on your personal environment (what you do, where you do it, and who you are with- in the simplest terms) your risk of those threats will vary. Some will argue there are unknown threats but to be frank, if they are unknown then the assessment you are getting is a weak one. There are threats that will overlap between individuals, such as we are all exposed to the threat of terrorism, but we may not all be at risk to the threat of kidnapping for ransom because of who we are, as an example. Therein lies the difference between threat and risk.
Risk is defined as the effects or level of exposure to the threats on your principal and how vulnerable they may or may not be to those threats, as in the likelihood of success of a specific threat to your principal. It is thus the duty of the CPO/security provider to correctly assess the threat, risk, vulnerability and thus the procedures and safeguards to mitigate those risks which results in a security protocol.
The security protocol it should be noted does not eliminate the threat, it mitigates risk by implementing correct courses of prevention and response should the threats materialise. They often do and the strength of the recommendations and adopted protocols will determine the likelihood of success, but it is impossible to guarantee the desired outcome of a life and property saved in all situations- you can only improve the probability of that outcome. That in simple terms means the CPO needs to control the environment of the principal as far as possible, and in such a way that lifestyle is not severely impacted while ensuring the protection of life and assets remains the priority. Ultimately the CPO can only make the recommendations to the principal, with the associated costs and therefore only work within the budget agreed to by the principal. Therein often lies one of the reasons an armoured car is not on the final ‘grocery list’…
Let’s delve into that a bit further in light of the points made above. In South Africa, is there a threat of damage to life and loss of property as a motorist? Yes there most definitely is. Is it a risk to everyone on the road or only to some? We know everyone is at risk. Is there evidence of a high likelihood of success of this threat on targets? Yes, there absolutely is evidence. Not just in hijacking, but in specific and targeted attacks.
Now onto mitigation of the risk, and let’s assume we remove an armoured car from the situation. Are there measures that can be employed by anyone to mitigate the risk? Yes there are, such as common sense and awareness and the myriad of tips that are widely published. In the event that the preventative measures have failed, are there response measures that improve the desired outcome of a life saved and property protected? That depends entirely on your attacker, the purpose of the attack and in the case of elevated threat and risk, your security protocols. That’s a frightening mix of variables. Should your planned responses not mitigate or eliminate the risk entirely, is there a failsafe to protect life and property? No, not really, or is there?
Now read the same paragraph above, but insert an armoured car into the equation. How much of the above environment can a security protocol control, considering that being in a vehicle, your environment is dynamic at all times? You could be moving towards or inviting in a threat at any time because you are constantly in a transitionary space that is far too big an environment to completely influence and control. Ultimately the environment you can control is the immediate one and the only constant- which is the vehicle itself. So when it all goes wrong, you are safe and able to escape with your life which is ultimately what we are trying to protect. If the armoured car is not on the grocery list and the budget is there, that is your decision and only yours to live with. Or not to live with…