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by Wayne North ~

Recently, a long-standing and well-known client to whom we provide Executive Protection (EP) informed us of a potential upcoming trip with their family, combining a little work, a little house hunting, and mostly a vacation. They chose a beach resort for their holiday. As always, our first step was to conduct a site advance of the location and the area surrounding it. If you have been following Overwatch Risk Solutions, you already know that the first steps are a detailed Risk Assessment and Physical Security Assessment. In the case of an EP assignment, the physical security of the venue or property is extremely important. This is especially true for properties where the client will be staying overnight or, in some cases, several days.

As with any venue, there are certain basic physical security protocols that should be in place. It is the challenge of venue/property management to balance the need for adequate security and a positive guest experience. After all, any property can reach its highest level of security by simply locking everything down and closely restricting access and screening staff, residents, and visitors. After all, facilities like prisons, Fort Knox, the Federal Reserve Banks, and certain military facilities have done so successfully for decades. But that does not provide a great experience for residents and visitors in a residential facility like a resort, apartment complex or hotel, does it? That is where the initial Risk Assessment is critical. It is important to identify, in simple terms, your most valuable assets (what can you not afford to lose), what you can afford to lose but would rather not, and what you are willing to sacrifice entirely. From there, the security program is built. The risk assessment can be quite complex, time-consuming, and cumbersome so it will not be addressed here in detail. However, physical security principles are relatively standard and are applied as your risk assessment has dictated. So let me cover a few standard practices that property and facility managers, in coordination with their security experts, should institute.

Physical Security Program Basics

To help select the right security measures for the facility being protected, the security program is built on a very simple premise and proposed security measures will do the following:

Deter - Deterrence is the ideal solution. If you can deter unauthorized individuals from even trying to access your property, you have won.

Detect - If deterrent measures do not work, security services need to be alerted immediately that there is an intrusion or other incident taking place. Typically, this is in the form of alarms. However, alarms are typically not the first choice in residential or vacation venues. No one wants their guests to hear alarms all day, unless it is a fire alarm where life and safety are at risk. Silent alarms work nicely, but only in facilities where there is a 24 hour, staffed, security center with someone to monitor alarms and cameras.

Delay - The next consideration should be to make an intrusion as difficult as possible. This gives security staff more time to react and respond. Access control and barriers (addressed a little later) work well in delaying and also containing potential unauthorized access.

Deny – This means simply not allowing unauthorized individuals in certain areas. This is where, again, proper access control comes in.

By the way, for some critical places such as homes, military or law enforcement facilities, some corporate facilities, and for us when providing close protection to our EP clients, there is a fifth D - Defend. That one is typically for facilities or situations where defense of life or highly sensitive information critical to national security is at stake.

Undertake a Complete Evaluation of the Facilities by a

Qualified Security Consultant

When trying to develop a security program, it is vital to conduct a complete evaluation of the facilities and property by a qualified Security Consultant. Look for someone who has the proper trade certifications, proving

they are knowledgeable of industry security standards. Typically, this individual should have, in our opinion, the Certified Protection Professional (CPP) or Physical Security Professional (PSP) credentials (for network and cybersecurity, look for the CISA or CISSP certification but cyber will not be addressed here. But remember, good network security starts with good physical security). Those who possess those certifications have been screened and vetted by the board of the American Society of Industrial Security (ASIS). They have also had to pass a standard, three hour written exam before they are ASIS Board certified. Additionally, they are required to undergo continued training annually in security practices, management, investigations, and new and developing practices and standards


Ensure video surveillance cameras are incorporated into the security program. However, expectations of what cameras can and cannot do need to be realistic and camera placement should be done carefully and with some forethought. This starts with your risk assessment. What is the purpose of the surveillance system? What are the high-risk areas of the property that may require additional camera coverage? It is important to remember that cameras typically provide minimal deterrence value. Furthermore, unless you have a staffed security center with a live body watching your monitors, cameras will not detect an incident occurring and most security programs do not have 24-hour monitoring of the cameras. Therefore, the video system is typically a reactive tool after an incident has occurred to document the incident and, hopefully, adequately identify any persons involved.

Access Control

Simply put, access control devices limit who can and who cannot enter a space. A simple lock is an access control device. The most common access control device for hotels, condos, etc. is usually a key card or other “proximity” reader. If you have been somewhere, either work or leisure, where you have to hold up a key card to a reader or enter a code on a door, you have used two of the most common access control devices. Just as in camera systems, there is a wide variety of access control devices and great care should be given in determining what devices are suitable for your property. Once again, a thorough risk assessment will identify what areas need a certain kind of access control. In general, it is usually recommended that, as a bare minimum, some type of access control be used to limit unfettered access into any space that guests and residents are living. This is usually seen either in a controlled doorway or, in most cases, elevators. Have you ever been in a hotel that requires a key card to access guest floors? If so, you understand the concept of protecting guest living spaces. There are numerous options for access control devices from Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) badges or wrist bands, to proximity cards, to cipher locks (locks you enter a code into on a keypad). Keep in mind when developing your system that people with certain disabilities may find several types of readers hard to operate. A keypad that requires a level of dexterity to enter a code is more challenging than a credential reader. A qualified security expert can provide advice on what access controls are best for your property.

Take into consideration if the use of certain products will be good for maintaining a balance between safety, security and convenience for all occupants. But that’s why you got that Risk Assessment completed, right?

Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design

Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design, or CPTED, is based on Oscar Newman’s book Defensible Space: Crime Prevention through Urban Design. CPTED revolves around four key strategies: Natural Surveillance, Territorial Reinforcement, Maintenance, and Access Control. There are complete, multi-day courses regarding the gory details of how to implement these concepts. Your CPP or PSP certified consultant is almost always trained in incorporating CPTED into your security program.


I started this article with the task from one of our clients, a fairly well-known celebrity, who asked us to review several resort options for their one-week vacation. For us, that starts with an initial review of the physical security. This review immediately illuminated certain properties from our recommended list. I have tried to share just some of the minimum, basic concepts we evaluate when deciding where our clients should or should not stay. We have not lost a client yet and we do not plan to.

My next article will run with this theme and explore how we would secure a temporary residence when a client is traveling and what extra steps we would take when protecting a celebrity client. And then, I will address special considerations for the “Principal Movement” of well-known clients. Stay tuned!

Overwatch Risk Solutions has extensive experience protecting celebrities, Fortune 500 CEOS, United States Cabinet Officers, and other dignitaries around the world. For more information, you can reach ORS at


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