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The Importance of Conducting an Advance Before Every Mission

In the Executive Protection industry, an advance is considered to be the most important aspect of any job. If you’re not already familiar with this term, it refers to the surveying of all aspects of the mission ahead. This includes the hotels, the vehicles, hospitals, restaurants, routes of transport and any other element that is considered to be a part of the mission.

This advance survey is conducted by the leading Executive Protection Agents before the VIP becomes an integrated member of the mission. It’s essential that these checks are carried out in each city, state or country that the VIP is due to visit.

These surveys are crucial. The purpose is to ensure that the mission, including the VIPS visitation times and the schedule, is maintained at all times, allowing everything to run as smoothly and hassle-free as possible. As you know, the priority of an EP agent on a mission is the safety and protection levels of the VIP. To ensure this can be successfully achieved, an advance is carried out to list out every possible threat that the team could face while on a mission. This enables the team to diverse complex and highly convert planning strategies during the planning stages of the mission as well as a backup plan should the threats were ever to become a reality.

What is an Advance?

Advance work is usually considered incredibly time-consuming, and it can only effectively be carried out by agents that are trained to the highest levels. Experience in this field is also vital. When planning your advance, here is a rough checklist of things that should be considered;

Pre-Departure Preparations, Preliminary Telephone Contacts , VIP Biographical Data and Risk Survey ,Threat Assessment, Intelligence Reports, Hotels, Route Surveys and parking, Travel Contact Information, Arrival Sites at the City of Visit, Vehicles & Vehicle Equipment, Building Surveys, Public Appearances, Airport Arrivals and Departure Surveys, Chauffeur Responsibilities & Guidelines, Restaurant Surveys, Crisis Management Plan, Private & Corporate Aircraft, Setting up a 24/7 Command Center, Maritime Survey, Bomb Threats & Procedures, Handling Mail and Packages, Weapons of Mass Destruction Response, Technical Countermeasures Sweep, Hospital Survey, Medical and Police Response , First Aid..

Each aspect of the checklist will require a various amount of consideration and operational time when surveying. This will be solely dependent on the mission at hand as well as the external and internal threat levels. You will also need to take into account aspects such as the crime rates of the given area and the budget requirements. It’s also worth noting that to maintain a high level of success when operating internationally, Executive Protection agents should arrive at the required country a few days before the VIP to ensure enough time for an advance to be carried out successfully.

However, as we all know, this is not always possible. In one case study, WPG managed to carry out 36 advance surveys in four days. These were completed while protecting their client. In this case, grouping the advances and carrying them while arriving in each country while the VIP was in a secure location was the most time-efficient and most effective way to carry out the surveys.

However, in the situations where you are rushed for time, some important aspects of an advance can be a brief 5 to 10-minute advance. These are the essential elements of an advance that must be completed before the VIP arrives in your protection. For example, if you’re rendezvousing in a building before the VIP is in your protection, you must carry certain checks on aspects that include; entrances and exits, bathrooms and rest rooms, safe rooms and becoming aware of the location of the most accessible hospital.

One of the most imperative elements you mustn’t forget is a medical response. Before every mission begins, always ensure your team is aware of the best trauma centres in the area and the safest ways to get there. This is even more important if your VIP has a pre-existing medical condition. In this case, you must set up a connection with a doctor in the centre who will be on standby should you need them. This doctor must have the ability to travel to you should an incident occur while in transit. As with any mission, all Executive Protection agents must carry current CPR training, a First Aid kit and must be AED Certified.

What Happens if the Team Is Entering a Known High-Risk Area?
The event that your team is aware that you’ll be travelling through an area that it’s highly likely that a threat will be present, advance teams are even more important. A team will need to be sent ahead of the convey to create a safe passage through as well as dealing with any potential threats.
In these situations, for example, if you’re passing through busy areas or multiple buildings, the advance agent will constantly be required to move ahead of the convoy containing the VIP. It will be their job to report back to the teams, communicated the best way to proceed. This EP agent will also be responsible for making any arrangements that need to be made before the VIPs arrival.

Carrying Out an Advance
Typically, it’s highly recommended that the advance agent visits each unique location twice.
During the first visit, the agent will need to conduct a survey of the location, noting down any potential threats and risks as well as assessing the condition of the site. This initial batch of data will be used to create the plans for the mission ahead. When carrying out a site survey, the advance agent must be studying the physical layout of the site. This will include a detailed analysis of the entrances and exits of the building, the bathrooms, public areas, vehicle parking zones (both for the VIP and any other security teams) as well as the locations of landline phones. This is the basic information you will need to formulate your plan. However, you may need to consider more aspects depending on the scale of the mission and the VIPs personal requirements.

During the second visit, the agent will be required to set up any security precautions, such as cordoning off roads and carrying out any other security related tasks that will be detailed in the initial plan.
Once the VIP arrives on site when the mission is underway, it’s vital that the advance agents remain on site during the duration of the VIPs visit. This crucial that the agents remain on site until the ‘drop-dead’ time (explained below). It’s important that the advance agent maintains links with all relevant Points of Contact (POC) as described in the plan. Within the POC, you may find connections with local law enforcement agencies, civilian security organisations, intelligence services and any other relevant security institutions.

How Many Advance Agents Does My Mission Need?
This solely depends on the complexity and the length of the mission at hand. If it’s a relatively low-profile mission, you may just need a two-man advance team. By using a two-man team, you can even distribute the work as well as speeding up the time for the results. A two-man team also provides a higher level of safety for the agent involved in the advance process.

When the mission is underway, it’s recommended that the advance agents are a part of the mission itself, but, there have been missions in the past where this hasn’t been the case. This is highly advised against as you have no idea on what lays ahead of you whereas the use of an advance agent can keep you up to date and therefore well prepared for the next steps of the mission. In a mission where you are not using an advance agent, it’s important that you make the VIP aware of this so that they are aware that the security response you’re providing is not as effective as it could be. If a threat was to become a reality and the VIP was not aware of this, your team and organisation will quickly find themselves in a lot of trouble.

Being Smart with Your Advances
An advance is not always an essential part of every mission. For example, if your VIP is en route to a secure location, such as a private island or resort where the only people your VIP will interact with groundskeepers or resort staff and the visit is relatively routine, a routine advance may not be required. In these situations, it’s advised that you initially conduct an advance when the contract begins and possibly an updated advance throughout the contract, but it will not be required every time the VIP embarks on the trip. A site sweep before the VIP arrives is still advised, but full enquiries into the facilities and building are not essential.

On the other hand, if your teams are going to become involved in long-term and possibly complex missions, it may be required that you invest in numerous, multi-personnel teams to complete the advances. This is especially important if the mission ahead contains obvious high-profile threats. If this is the case, you should invest in as many advance teams as possible. This is because these teams will be responsible for located and identifying the risks and threats that lay before you, giving you a detailed insight into how to effectively complete the mission. During these advances, it’s vital that your teams investigate all routes involved in the mission while exploring potential ambush opportunities, choke points and crucial threat locations.

By implementing your teams tactically, you can dramatically increase your chances of success as well as ensuring the mission runs as smoothly as possible. During these complex situations where multiple teams are used, your advance teams may not be required for actual physical locations since the initial team will continuously move forward at each stage of the mission. However, when there are multiple locations, it may be wise to keep some advance teams continuously surveying their designated locations.

In the industry, this is known as the ‘leap frog’ technique. This technique is where multiple teams can alternate locations, moving forward one-step ahead of each other as the VIP moves from location to location. This maximises the effectiveness of your budget and while ensuring all aspects of an advance is covered. Imagine an itinerary where your VIP has 12-15 destinations. In this situation, you’ll need three teams that can cover 2-3 destinations each, continuously moving forward. This is the ideal technique to be implemented on international missions. While using this technique, you’ll need to implement the highest quality management skills to ensure everything remains on track and runs effectively.

In an instance where the budget is a concern, you can always send a two-man advance team to examine all locations before returning to the start location to escort the VIP throughout the entire journey. No matter what the itinerary, you’ll need to consider the size of the team that’s necessary to the mission based on the size of the potential threats which then falls in accordance with the budget constraints. Additionally, you’ll need to consider the VIP’s personal requirements and the availability of your resources. When planning your mission, the potential threat level should be your primary concern when distributing your resources.

Conducting an Effective Advance
As a rough guideline, your advance teams will need one full day to conduct a thorough advance of a location. Again, you’ll need to be smart with your resources. If your VIP has visited a certain destination on a regular basis, you should already have a detailed analysis of most of the advance’s criteria. However, a quick advance may be needed to update the current information, but this is much more time and budget efficient than carrying out a full advance. This obviously depends on the threat level of the location.

You’ll also need to consider your liaisons with other security forces operating in the area at the time which may take more time. You may need to set up planned meetings with these agencies to acquire concealed weapons permits and to discuss and organise other security arrangements. You may also need permits to operate within certain buildings and institutions. Some events may have rehearsals. If these occur, it’s highly recommended that you send a member of your security team to attend and make the required observations. This will help you to learn about the schedule of the day as well meeting other individuals who will be attending the event. You’ll also have access to other managerial figures that are part of the event.

Utilize Checklists for Enhanced Organisation
Maximise your use of checklists in everything that you do. When you’re carrying out an advance, ensure your EP agents are working from a checklist to guarantee that no items are missed. When they have successfully carried out the advance, create another checklist of the relevant data picked up so the mission can run smoothly in accordance with it. These checklists are incredibly easy to create and will not need to be more than a standardised form where your agents can check a box or fill in the required information. By creating checklists, you’ll also have a recorded copy of all the information for the rest of the mission as well as any other future missions.
With your active mission checklists, you’ll need to include your VIPs requirements, specifications and personal preferences. Some aspects to consider include medical conditions and related equipment, for example, oxygen tanks or defibrillators. Consider pacemakers and any other special requirements that your VIP notifies you of. Another advantage of using checklists means that you can effectively refer to aspects of the mission when communicating with a point of contact. You can refer to your checklist to ask relevant questions on the condition of the destination as well as the current status of the VIP. Furthermore, checklists can be created from your initial checklists that can help you to brief your teams before and after your missions effectively.

Conclusion

As you can see, advances can save you and your teams a lot of work and the implementation of an advance can be the make or break of any mission your executive protection company partakes in. Always remember to be smart with your processes and use lists to maximise your effectiveness. This will help you to ensure your mission run as smooth as possible while guaranteeing that every aspect is covered.