The purpose of close protection ‘Operational Planning’ is to create a plan of action that will be made known to all members of the close protection team. This plan will allow them all to act and respond most effectively. The operational plan can also be known as the operational orders (op’ orders) or standard operating procedures (SOPs).
The operational plan would typically be put together by the close protection (CP) Team Leader (TL / CPTL) or the CP manager or security management.
The operational plan ultimately is to inform the CP team of all information regarding their Principal and the task ahead. Also, the plan can be used post-operation for analysing the team’s response following an incident.
The amount of information will vary depending on the confirmed level of the threat and risk assessment. The threat level and risk assessment, in turn, dictates the resources required and further dictates the amount of information in the operational plan.
Never underestimate the value of information to close protection operatives, you can never have enough information. A non-exclusive list of intelligence sources for the operational plan includes:
The operational plan should be designed to prevent disruption to the Principal’s activities. An effective operational plan facilitates the coordination of available manpower, ensuring the smooth running of the operation. Plans need to balance protection against requirements and the resources and budget available. This balance can be an issue in the real world. There may be insufficient time, budget, resources, or training for an operational plan to be developed.
Operational plans are rarely seen on small or short tasks as they are time-consuming and the information required is rarely available, especially for “fastball” jobs. The lack of an operational plan puts the Principal and the CP operatives at risk.
Unfortunately, there are a considerable number of close protection operatives that do not know how to put an operational plan together. An SIA Close Protection licence is no substitute for years of training and experience. So, many close protection operatives will likely work for several years and many different security companies or clients without ever seeing a set of operational orders.
At all levels, the operational plan should consist of the following:
This section will inform the close protection team of the location or locations of the mission or task. For example, the Principal’s first departure point may be their residence address, along with the full address images might be included along with map reading grid references for accuracy. Also, there may be a brief description of the local area, population, and crime statistics.
The second location to be visited by the Principal may be a business meeting at an unknown venue. The second location or phase of the mission requires the same information. Including details of the drop-off and pick-up location and local area information, again backed up with photographic images of the drop-off point (DOP) and pick-up point (PUP), etc. The plan should contain this information for every phase of the mission or location that the Principal will attend.
All information and any images supplied are vital, especially for an incoming team or driver that has not been able to recce’ the location previously. An up to date image of the drop-off point is a valuable asset that can save time and embarrassment. Professionals never solely rely on Google earth or street images, as these images could be months or even years old.
The situation section will include information regarding the Principal and the task itself. Such as; the principal profile, who they are, any known family members, known associates, likes, dislikes, political views, religious views, medical history if any, allergies, etc. Principal staff members such as drivers, personal assistants, and nannies. Hobbies and interests.
The situation section also includes the name of the meeting host and any information that is available about them too.
The threat, what and why is there a threat, known enemy forces if known. Specific persons previously identified during the threat assessment or known criminals are detailed.
Any known source of an attack or possible vulnerable location for an attack during the mission must be flagged up.
It is this section of information that small “fastball” tasks often fail to locate. A close protection operative may complete a task or mission never actually meeting relevant staff or receiving a complete brief on the Principal.
The mission statement is repeated twice during the operational briefing to ensure that there is no misunderstanding of the objective. For example, the task is to protect Mr X during his daily activities. Starting from his residence at A then move Mr X via vehicle to a scheduled meeting at B. And so on.
This section will explain the summary of the plan. Typically, to the point phrases are used. For example:
Phase 1 – collection of Principal from residence.
Phase 2 – vehicle move from residence to office meeting.
Phase 3 – vehicle move from meeting location to the airport.
Each phase may have specific tasks and roles addressed in this section, such as who is the PPO (personal protection operative) and their exact role within the assignment. And the same is applied to any other team members such as the PES (personal escort section), SAP (security advance party), and so on.
The information regarding the timings of the mission follows. The execution section includes departure and expected arrival times at each location and travel times between each site.
Chosen routes that have been recce’d and selected will be included along with ERV (emergency rendezvous) locations, such as safe houses or medical facilities.
Any known medical history of the Principal or their family is detailed.
Include a description of the Principal’s luggage and handling of the luggage. Many CPOs often overlook this important section as they deem this below them and not their job. All too often have CPOs been removed or sacked from a task because they did not manage the Principal’s luggage, which is very often incredibly valuable. The Principal’s luggage often goes to an airport ahead of the Principal’s arrival ensuring minimum delays with baggage checks etc.
Identify the names of any of the Principal’s staff or guests.
List any vehicle that will be used, including spare vehicles along with driver and vehicle details. The same will apply for any aircraft use, aircraft identification number the pilot and crew names and contact details.
Any additional security measures that may be encountered at the meeting location or the airport, even small private airports have security measures that can hinder the principal departure if you are not prepared for the procedures that are in place.
Explain emergency procedures or responses, such as the actions regarding any attack at the residence, venue, mobile (vehicle), or walking. Each movement must have a procedure or SOP for response and reaction. The responses will be appropriate to the level of threat and risk associated with the Principal. Equal consideration should be given to the procedures related to a bomb threat or location of a bomb or IED (improvised explosive device) and a road traffic collision (RTC) or a vehicle breakdown.
Operational support details vehicles being used, back-up vehicles, or any mode of transport that will be deployed.
Also, document radio communications and the radio sets. Include procedures for the issue of comms’, along with replacement batteries, etc.
Identify medical support, including hospital locations and medical assistance within the team such as the team medic. Document the situation and location of the medical equipment (stored within which specific vehicle).
The location of accommodation may be listed. It is not uncommon for team members to be put into separate or cheaper accommodation from the Principal, keeping only the PPO in the Principal’s hotel.
Note the availability of meals and subsidence. Include details of opportunities to take meals. Explain how refunds for expenses will be made.
The dress code should be listed preferably in conjunction with the schedule so that all team members dress appropriately as per the Principal and locations.
This section will list the chain of command, who is the TL or team manager etc. It is not uncommon for the whole security team to report to a principal’s Chief of Staff or Personal Assistant (PA). If an operations room or ‘ops room’ is used, then its location and contact details will be noted. Also, note all team telephone numbers and any other relevant contact numbers and names such as a venue’s POC (point of contact).
Clarify call signs, nicknames, place names or colour coded spot map references and reference points, and numbers assigned to the mission.
Once completed, the Operational plan should be deemed as a confidential and sensitive document and treated as such.
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