Close Protection Route Selection

Close Protection Route Selection

“A principal is more vulnerable to attack when in transit”.

The history of assassinations, that of successful and unsuccessful attempts will teach us that one of the typical times for an attack is when a principal is in transit within a vehicle. Be it a car, aircraft, or vessel.

For this reason, the movement of a principal from one secure location to another brings a heightened risk. Close protection operatives must be knowledgeable and experienced at correct route selection.

CPO training in route selection is vital. However, operating CPOs may not get to plan routes as often as they would like. This lack of planning can be due to perceived threat level, time or budget constraints.

People who have no connection with the close protection industry will have occasionally conducted route selection for their route to work or a family road trip. Maybe using a tool such as the AA Route Planner. Within close protection operations, there is much more information to be obtained that can take many hours or even days of planning.

Route Selection and Planning

To move a principal safely and securely within a timely fashion, we apply the following principles for route selection:

Avoid Routine

Formulate and agree on a principal’s routes. Avoid routine from then on. Never take the same way to and from the principal’s place of work to avoid any possible hostile surveillance against the principal’s movements and timings. The same applies to the operatives arriving and departing the principal’s locations at the end of their shifts. Use alternate routes to avoid creating patterns. Patterns could put the operatives or principal at risk.

Maximum Safe Speed

The timing of the journey must be accurate. The planner will need to drive the route recce’ at the maximum safe speed legally allowable in the country of operation. Driving at unsafe speeds will endanger the life of the principal, the close protection team, and other innocent members of the public. Excessive speed will also attract unwanted attention from local law enforcement or criminal fraternities, plus timings will be incorrect. The route recce should be pre-driven at the same time of day and day of the week as the proposed Principal movement time for more accurate timing.

Alternative Routes

Choose alternative routes so that immediate action can be taken to avoid any problems with the primary route. Identify multiple alternative routes if possible.

Accurate Timings

Timing is critical for close protection operatives, CP teams, and principals alike. Record reliable journey times to and from each location, all selected routes, crossover points and emergency rendezvous points or safe havens. Make allowance for the size of the party travelling on the day. A convoy of vehicles needing to maintain contact may not move as quickly as a single vehicle.

Need to Know

Limit knowledge of chosen routes to those that need to know. Avoid the loss of or gathering of information against the principal’s movements. 

Correct Vehicles

Ensure that you have the proper vehicles for the terrain and the environment. Correct vehicle selection avoids attracting unwanted attention or getting stranded. For example, using a convoy of new and spotless black Mercedes-Benz executive vehicles may not be suitable for the principal and family to drive discretely to their Swiss mountain top retreat. The operational environment may dictate whether a soft-skin or armoured vehicle is used.

Principal’s Preferences

A CPO should also bear in mind a Principal’s preferences for the trip and the resources available. Will the Principal self-drive or be chauffeur driven? Will there be a security driver or separate personal protection operative (PPO) accompanying? 

Close Protection Route Planning

Each route will consist of the quickest safest route possible that is to be taken by the principal. Listing road names, junctions, landmarks, safe havens, and emergency rendezvous locations (ERVs). The route will also consist of crossover points. This is a location or junction where the route can be changed or diverted to the secondary or third chosen route. There may also be more than one crossover point offering multiple opportunities to vary the route and move from one route to another.

The fastest roads will be chosen, such as motorways so as not to present a slow-moving target and with more room to manoeuvre during evasive driving due to an attack.

Timings should be taken at every junction, crossover point, and ERV so to ensure a precise time scale of arrival at the proposed location to be visited. Accurate timings enable keeping the principal up to date with the estimated time of arrival (ETA). There is nothing worse than when a principal asks for an update on their arrival time only for the CPO to respond with, “I am sorry, I do not know how long it will take”.

The ERVs can be locations such as Hospitals and police stations. Visit each ERV before listing them. Ensure that the building is still a suitable location to be used as an ERV. Ascertain the opening hours and days, the exact location of the entrance and the procedure once inside. If the ERV is a hospital, it is useful to know the hospital’s specialities and if it has an Accident and Emergency (A&E) department. Other useful knowledge is whether it has a VIP department suitable for accepting your principal. The ideal ERV is manned 24 hours a day.

Route Reconnaissance

Another goal of route reconnaissance is to list vulnerable points along the route. Either avoid them entirely or highlight the possible weak point so that all team members are aware.

Vulnerable points can consist of but are not limited to:

  • Heavy Traffic
  • Traffic Lights
  • Quiet Unlit Areas
  • Roundabouts and Junctions
  • Overlooking Features
  • Tall Buildings
  • Tunnels, Bridges
  • Level Crossings and Bottlenecks
  • Thick Scrub and Trees
  • Gradients
  • High Banks, Sharp Bends, Narrow roads
  • Known Terrorist, High Crime, Lawless Areas
  • One Way Streets
  • Radio/Phone signal Black spots
  • Arrival and Departure Points
  • Large Hoardings

The list can be extensive, and it would not be possible to avoid every single vulnerable point (VP).

Communications Checks 

Route reconnaissance should also identify black/dead spots in comms such as two-way radios or mobile devices failing to connect in specific areas. Communication black spots may also be an ideal area for an ambush. The enemy too will have conducted their survey and be one step ahead of you.

Linear Map 

Once the route selection is complete, the route would then typically be transferred onto a linear map. A linear map is a map that is simplified and reduced in size. The purpose is to allow maximum information to be input onto one sheet of paper, instead of many sheets but still consisting of all the above-required information.

Examples of standard linear maps in everyday use are maps such as the London underground map and satellite navigation maps. The London underground map is condensed as a linear map so that the whole of the underground system can be viewed on a small piece of paper or device.

With a satellite navigation map, you may have the option to print off your chosen route. Print sat-nav maps using a linear map option if possible. This option would produce a condensed route map that would not require endless sheets of paper to cover all the mileage and information. The same is available via Google Maps, however, you can also send the information straight to your phone.

More prudent still is to print the route selected as a linear map onto small route cards. Easily store route cards within the vehicle. The routes cards would be issued to all drivers and CPOs within the principal team, thus ensuring that everyone knows the exact routes. Laminate the cards to increase their life span if the assignment requires. Route cards are quick to refer to should the plan or route change rapidly as they all too often do.

Using Technological Tools in Route Planning 

Technology such as Google Maps, GPS, and satellite navigation systems are accurate, convenient, and fast methods of route planning. Real-time traffic updates add information that cannot be gleaned from an analogue map. However, experienced CPOs would be foolish to rely on technology alone. There is always the danger of loss of power, equipment failure, or errors. Also, technology may not work in signal blackspots and is only as accurate as of the most recent software update.

Using Non-electronic Maps in Route Planning 

The printed map is not reliant on connectivity and can be more accurate than an electronic map. Especially when combined with contemporaneous reconnaissance. That’s not to say that paper maps are always superior. The user must be competent in reading maps and use a recent up to date publication. However, paper maps are particularly challenging to read in poor light or when working in isolation as an IBG or security chauffeur.

Close Protection Services

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Westminster Security Ltd are not close protection training providers. Content provided is for informational purposes only. Please do not take this content as an operational guide. Some sensitive details have been omitted or changed for confidentiality and security reasons.