Active Shooter Response in an Executive Protection Role
Active shooter situations have become much more commonplace in American Culture as of late. Going to the movies, grocery store or church, now require protection agents to plan for an active shooter situation more thoroughly than ever. Although the foundation of planning for emergencies will always be part of the job, how you respond to these potential emergencies changes.
The general plan of RUN, HIDE, FIGHT, is still a good rule for surviving an active shooter. However, we must add into our assessment that we have someone else to care for. This can either maintain the continuum, change the order in which we would act, or completely eliminate some options altogether. For example, if we were with a completely capable client that had high mobility, we may choose the option to grab our client and run. On the other hand if we were with a client with low mobility, we may have to eliminate the option of running from our emergency action plan. Hiding is usually not the best option when in a protection role. Running or fighting become options that are more likely to play out. You are either “Mobile or Hostile”.
Factors to Consider
As mentioned above, the mobility of the client is a large determining factor in our emergency action planning. When we talk about a fully capable client, we mean someone who has all of the physical abilities necessary to move swiftly away from a situation. Starting from a healthy, athletic client begin to work your way backward to develop a plan based on their capabilities. Does the client have any injuries that would hinder their mobility? This may be the case if a client has been recently injured during a project. As we all know, injuries increase and general mobility decreases with the client’s age. If you have an elderly client, they may move slower and simply running could leave them injured in an event, further decreasing your ability to move swiftly in that particular situation. At the bottom level, you may have a client that requires a wheelchair, walking sticks or crutches. Outside of carrying the client to safety (which may be the correct option) you may have to plan for short movements to hide or immediately fight from your position.
The location or venue is always assessed, whether it be during advance if there is time or on the spot if you have been given a change in plans by the client. If seating chart has placed your client in the center of an auditorium or ballroom, hiding may be out of the question in that instance. Every EP Agent knows that they should identify a safe room within close proximity of the client’s main position during an event as well as others along the route of travel through the building if necessary. You may be able to get to the safe room and “hide” until a situation presents itself for you to extract your client. Hopefully you have positioned yourself and your client with the options of moving your client to safety. But, if you haven’t or it was just impossible to make this happen, your location may require you to instantly fight.
Decision to Act
We all know that the decision to act must be immediate in an active shooter situation. An agent can use the OODA Loop (Observe, Orient, Decide, Act) in these situations. Observe what is happening, Orient yourself to the situation and understand your enemies orientation, Decide on the necessary steps to take and Act on them.
One of the first principles of being a bodyguard in an emergency situation is to get your client to safety. In an active shooter situation, this does not change, but you will have to figure out if it can be done. If you can move your client to a near exit and escape, do it. This will be dependent on the proximity of the threat, the tools you have on you to eliminate the threat and as we spoke about, the mobility of the client. A hero factor usually shows itself when conversing about this situation. If, no matter what the situation, distance of the attack or ability you have to confront the attacker, you say that you would leave your client to hunt down the threat, understand you have done just that “left” you client. Keeping yourself and your client out of a situation where there is imminent threat to life is the primary directive.
The decision to hide is probably the least favorable of the Run, Hide, Fight model. This leaves little up to you as far as when a face to face encounter will occur. That is not to take away from the fact that if you are in a safe room, that is a defensible position, you can have the drop on any threat that presents itself. However, safe rooms in public places lend themselves to non-combatants flooding these areas for their own safety, cluttering up you ability to identify friend from foe. If there is a pre-designated safe room as a part of your plan, and there should be, try to make it one that is identifiable by yourself and select few others, so that you and your client aren’t crowded by others. A bathroom is always an option, but in this case, not a very good one. The door should be as thick as possible and it should be lockable from the inside. The venue you are at will dictate what is available to you so make sure you are conducting a thorough advance of the location prior to your detail.
“Fight” is the response that most people would like to think they would take in an active shooter situation, especially those in the protection field. There are multiple hard skill courses available to prepare yourself for a violent encounter with someone and they are taught by a variety of great instructors. Once you have made the decision to fight, only the moment will tell if you have trained hard and long enough. The important thing in the decision to fight, is the information you have gathered to make that decision and how you have analyzed it. This must all be done in a matter of seconds so whatever information you have, you will need to use to make a decision, but some instances cater to fighting better than others.
One key component is the distance between you and the active shooter. If they begin their shooting only feet from you and the client, the run and hide methods are pretty much useless. Therefore you will need to, and should fight in this instance. Your ability to close distance and answer the perpetrator’s violence, with violence, will be the difference between life and death. If the distance is pushed to yards, you may consider the run option, unless you have the surprise on the attacker or have a weapon of your own and the ability to make the shot. A large portion of Executive Protection is done without a firearm. If this is your case, then fighting as a first option with someone 30 yards from you with a semi-automatic rifle might not be the best choice. Your ability to close the distance with the shooter firing at high rates gives way for a low probability of success.
If you do have a weapon of your own and choose to use it, be sure to thoroughly understand your own capabilities. Most people think they could make a 45ft headshot on a stationary target. But even when presented with this situation on a static range, most average shooters fail often on their first attempt. If you cannot shoot a target at 25 yards and you see an active shooter situation evolving 60-70 yards away, your decision as an EP agent should shift to escaping with your client instead of leaving your client to fight the enemy.
Mobile or Hostile
Ultimately your and your client’s safety are top priorities. Because your client’s life is so directly tied to your own, the best reaction for your client’s safety is often the same for yourself. A protection agent should not pursue a gunman, leaving his client to fend for themselves until you return, or not. If you do not have the ability to carry a firearm while acting as an agent, be sure to plan accordingly. Do not come up with imaginative scenarios that you will grab a gun from someone and save the day. Hiding is the weakest of the run, hide, fight model and in the decision making process should be last. This leaves you with two decisions, you are either mobile or you are hostile. Either you are getting yourself and your client to safety or you are attacking.
Courses like this are offered at Pacific West Academy in the Executive Protection portion.
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As a former law enforcement officer I thought I had a pretty good understanding of what it would take to be a good Executive Protection Specialist but it's a whole different ball game when you don't have the weight of a badge behind you. Although this course was basically fundamentals, I felt it helped bridge the gap between my experience as a law enforcement officer and the EP field. Although I had done a lot of similar range work before I found the firearms portion of the course work to be very professional and well executed and could see how this would be a great course for someone new to the field. Thanks for a great course.Josh Huntington Beach, CA
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I've been in Executive Protection here in LA since returning from a tour in Iraq in 2005. I think a lot of people who are interested in this field are under the misconception that being a cop, soldier or bouncer will give them all the tools they need to be effective in the EP field. Far from it. These jobs may provide a foundation but they don't provide a true understanding of the dynamics of Executive Protection. Your course was a good introduction to the ins and outs (and potential pitfalls) of EP work. Whether or not someone is new to the field or, like me, just trying to maintain perishable skills, I highly recommend this course.Don Los Angeles, CA