Preventing Unintentional Injury
By Rick Colliver: Part 2 of 5
As we discussed last week, the protective mission can be broken into five critical elements. But to simplify, we might even break these elements down into the broader categories of “intentional” and “unintentional” acts.
As a protection specialist, we have a responsibility for safeguarding our protectee not only from intentional acts of violence, but inadvertent ones as well. In the United States, we live an average of about 78 years , with heart disease, cancer and stroke being the most significant contributors to our demise. The US Center for Disease Control (CDC) tells us that more than half of the people over age 45 will die from one of these diseases.
On the other end of the spectrum, accidents are still the leading cause of death for persons age 1 to 45. And, not surprisingly, of all accidental death, motor vehicle accidents remain the number one cause. When we consider the statistics of traffic crashes alone, we recognize the importance of proper route selection and defensive driving skills in the everyday planning of protective movements, because protection personnel are, statistically, not significantly safer than the general population.
In April 2007, New Jersey governor Jon Corzine was seriously injured when the SUV in which he was riding was forced into a guardrail on the Garden State Parkway. According to the NJ State Police report, the vehicle was traveling in excess of 90 MPH in a 65 MPH zone (with emergency lights on), when the vehicle was struck by a pickup truck that was in the process of avoiding a third vehicle.
The first line-of-duty death in the US Secret Service was on September 3, 1902 when Operative Daniel Craig’s carriage was struck by a trolley in Pittsfield, Massachusetts . Since that time, the Secret Service has lost nearly twice as many agents to traffic crashes than gunfire, including one tragic incident in March 1983 in which three agents were killed en route to Yosemite National Park in advance of Queen Elizabeth’s motorcade. More recently, law enforcement has lost three motorcycle officers in “routine” motorcades since 2006.
Assuming we get to our venues in one piece, our protectees will often speak or perform from temporary stages in ball rooms and banquet halls, where the stage has been hastily assembled from risers, three or four portable stairs and thousands of square feet of dark curtain material.
Because of the portable nature of this set-up, we expect the back-stage and wings to have low lighting levels, miles of cable that is duct-taped to the carpet in places, and thousands of dollars worth of scaffolding, light and sound equipment pushed into a segmented area of the hall, from which the show operators will work. This is a perfect environment for trips and falls (which is why small tactical flashlights are recommended for all detail members).
Other environments that should cause us to be more cognizant of natural hazards would include outdoor venues after rain or snow. Some of us remember the field day that the media had in 1975 when President Ford slipped and fell as he descended the ladder from Air Force One upon arrival in Vienna, Austria for a state visit. POTUS Ford was a former football player and quite agile on his feet. However, this did not keep the incident from being parodied on late-night television comedy shows.
More recently, on Sept. 19, 1996, presidential candidate Bob Dole was giving a speech in Chico, Calif., took a step forward to shake the hand of a supporter, and fell through a makeshift fence on the stage. Despite the tumble, he was able to walk away from the incident. Again, some less-than responsible journalists turned this into entertainment for the late-night crowd.
One of the most widely-reported and controversial losses of a renowned Protectee came on August 31, 1997 in the Pont de l’Alma road tunnel in Paris when Diana, Princess of Wales was killed in a traffic crash. The Mercedes Benz in which she and friend Dodi Al Fayed were riding struck a pillar in the tunnel at high speed. A 2008 court ruling attributed the the accident to grossly negligent driving by chauffer Henri Paul (toxicology reports indicated a high blood-alcohol content) who was attempting to flee paparazzi.
More detailed information of this incident can be found in The Bodyguard’s Story, by Trevor Rees-Jones (New York: Warner Books, 2000), where he elaborates on their plans for moving the couple from the hotel to Fayed’s Paris apartment, and how those plans were interrupted (p. 83). This incident demonstrated that even when we adequately plan and prepare, our best intentions can be comprimised by the protectee’s own wishes.
When we are running routes or conducting security assessments of venues, we need to be aware of and appreciate the non-intentional hazards present. In addition to the regular environmental and fire hazards, many venues have their own unique risks:
Construction sites: Persons moving about with equipment and heavy tools, unstable ground surfaces, dimly lit areas, improperly run or grounded cables, personnel and unsecured equipment working above the detail, flammable liquids and noxious fumes possible
Shopping malls: Expansive areas that may be great distances from your limo or spare car, inability to restrict access or identify occupants, attractive target for terrorist attack – frequently find unattended bags and parcels
Sports venues: Densely populated, high noise environments, detail may not be able to seat near the Protectee’s party, steep stairs difficult to negotiate with pushing and shoving, predictable traffic jam at end of game, very attractive target for terrorist attack
Many in this profession argue that the detail’s advance agent is the most important member of the team. After all, forewarned is forearmed. We need those eyes and ears out in front whenever we move our principals around. Recognizing the value of this position, we must focus not only on intentional dangers that are waiting for us around the corner, but also those dangers that can present unintentionally and without warning.
Consider the February 2003 E2 incident. A security officer deploying pepper spray to break up a fight in the Chicago nightclub, set off a stampede that ended in the deaths of 21 people as they fled towards blocked or chained exits. Ironically, even though the event was initiated to stop violence, in this time of heightened terror consciousness, it remains our nation’s biggest loss of life due to a chemical weapon attack.
Could any of us have seen this tragedy coming? It is our job to look, because planning for accidents is just as important as planning for any other type of AOP!
Rick Colliver has served as the global security director for two multi-national corporations with operations in 24 time zones, and has managed protection details in Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas. He is the course developer and lead instructor in the Principal Protection program at the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy and is an adjunct instructor in protective operations through several police, military and academic organizations. His book, “Principal Protection; Lessons Learned” is due out in summer 2010.