Thursday, April 2, 2015

What Do Your Heroes Say About You?



My daughter asked me the other day who my three favorite characters were. The characters could be from movies, books or TV shows. To make it fun, she guessed mine and I guessed hers. She got the first two almost right away and the third took just a little bit longer. I guessed hers pretty quickly as well.

It was a fun game, but it did get me to wondering - what do our favorite characters say about us? Probably not so much about us, but more about what we like or attributes we respect. My daughter guessed the Saint and James Bond as the first two of my favorite characters. The third was Han Solo. Why did I pick those three? What do I enjoy about each?

All three embody independence to be certain. The Saint and Han Solo are truly working to their own drumbeat, even stepping outside the law to accomplish their goals. The ends justify the means type of mentality. James Bond acts nearly as independently, although a bit more under the direction of the British government.


Despite some of the methods, each still has a code of conduct: standing up for what is right and willing to take on the corresponding challenges and dangers to succeed. Another piece of that is courage. No matter what type of action you are thinking of taking, there is usually some risk and courage is the ingredient that helps take on those risks.

And of course, there is a certain style that each brings to the pages or movie screen. The Saint cantering forth into the world of criminals dressed in a Savile Row suit is certainly the epitome of style, followed closely by Bond’s own suits and exotic cars. Han Solo’s style is better reflected in his reckless sarcasm and wit.


Unfortunately, I cannot say that I actually have all of these characteristics. Still, on some level even fictional heroes are an example so it is wise to pick ones that do have redeeming qualities worth emulating. I do like to carry a certain style of my own and I am not always fond of following every little rule or policy by the book and I am not willing to back away from a fight for something worthwhile. I’ve never given it much thought, but every time I’m dealing with some inane corporate procedure or policy, I immediately start plotting how to circumvent it – not for any malicious purpose, but simply to get things done without interference. I guess that is where my rule breaking ends.

Naturally, all three make for interesting stories, whether it is the more serious, hard-core James Bond of the Ian Fleming’s books or the silver-screen version. The Saint lives on in the books, which are harder to find and even Han Solo will return to the movie screen later this year. May our own lives be as interesting, minus all the danger (mmm - could that be part of it?).

This whole idea makes me wonder what my true, real heroes say about me as well. That is a topic for another day, but I will say that there are some very big differences.

By the way, my daughter’s favorite characters were Katniss from the Hunger Games books, Skullduggery (I didn’t know who that was either until I saw her books) and Dr. Who. Take a guess about what she likes about each of them in the comments below.


Combining his law enforcement and corporate security experiences plus a love of martial arts, Eric Smith created Business Karate, LLC, a Colorado-based security consulting firm. His new book, Workplace Security Essentials, outlines how any business, school, hospital or organization can master the art of self-defense, reduce losses, avoid liability and build a safer workplace. Visit www.businesskarate.com for more. Follow on Twitter @businesskarate

Sunday, February 1, 2015

The Security Sherlock



               The pipe. The funny ‘deerstalker’ cap. The puzzled sidekick. The famous Baker Street address. Hopefully, you’ve deduced the common thread – Sherlock Holmes. Elementary, right? Sherlock has endured since the 1800’s and has seen a resurgence in popularity.
              

               I have to confess that my daughter convinced me to watch the latest rendition on TV. The BBC’s show, Sherlock, is a modern version of the famous detective. For the most part, I’ve enjoyed this version and the fast-talking Sherlock and friend, Dr. Watson. In fact, it prompted me to dig up an old copy of the original Sir Author Conan Doyle stories in a book I got years ago.

               Reading the stories, I was struck by some of the techniques and logic of the detective. He truly was the beginning of the CSI with his scientific approach to a crime scene. Sherlock was described as something of a walking encyclopedia of criminal knowledge, as well as various other topics that could be useful in a crime scene investigation. For example, Sherlock studied over 140 varieties of tobacco and could identify the brand smoked by a suspect from a few ashes collected at the scene. He also was an expert on the soils to be found in the area around London and could deduce where a person had been by the mud left from boots or mingled with footprints.
BBC Photo

               One other area of study for Sherlock was past crimes. He was very familiar with a history of criminal cases and past events. His logic was that there was nothing truly new and that any crime would fit a profile of one committed in the past. There is definitely a certain logic in that approach. It has gotten me to think about the approach used by modern security and law enforcement professionals. I have always believed that we can learn a great deal from past crimes and have written a number of articles about lessons learned.
              
               For anyone interested in self-defense, it makes sense to review stories about street crimes and attacks and give some thought to how the situation might have been avoided or what steps could have been taken to reduce the threat. For example, there was recent news about a couple that went to buy a car advertised on Craigslist who then went missing. Per news stories, the seller has been caught in lies to the police and is certainly a likely suspect in the disappearance. Without even knowing the details yet, this should create some thought to steps someone could take if meeting someone after an online connection to buy or sell something. Where will the meeting take place? Somewhere public? Who else knows about it? What other information can be gathered ahead of time to check into the buyer or seller? Certainly, there are many possible ideas that could help protect someone following up on an online deal.
              
               Security professionals often focus attention on the latest technology, such as digital video systems or high-tech access control systems. Still the old-fashioned idea of studying past crimes or recent events is a great way to enhance any security program. It is a great exercise in comparing your organization’s security or even your personal protection against some real life criminal. You’ll also learn from the crimes that hit other companies and adjust your security program based on those lessons learned.

               This understanding of the criminal mind, and how people act, is still a valuable tool to the modern security professional or street-smart individual. It is, after all, elementary.


Combining his law enforcement and corporate security experiences plus a love of martial arts, Eric Smith created Business Karate, LLC, a Colorado-based security consulting firm. His new book, Workplace Security Essentials, outlines how any business, school, hospital or organization can master the art of self-defense, reduce losses, avoid liability and build a safer workplace. Visit www.businesskarate.com for more. Follow on Twitter @businesskarate

Monday, January 26, 2015

Paris Terror Attack and Lessons Learned



            “Je suis Charlie.” The phrase, which simply means "I am Charlie", has caught on as the slogan to show solidarity in the fight against radical Islamic terrorists. 

            By now, you’ve seen the news and coverage about the brutal terror attacks in Paris. When I was in law enforcement, it was common after a tragedy to review what had happened, especially if it involved an officer safety issue, and look for lessons that could be learned so future police officers in that situation would respond differently and survive the incident. 

            So what lessons can be learned from the events in Paris? To get the most benefit, take a very broad approach, looking for general ideas to prevent a similar tragedy, not just duplicate this exact case, as every situation will be a little different.

            First, these suspects were known to have terrorist ties and were on a no-fly list. Once persons are identified as having terrorist ties, authorities should monitor what they are up to. Of course, this is an ongoing and challenging issue, but society needs to set some barriers to anyone who promotes violence or has ties with those that do. This same type of issue played out in Australia when one person held multiple hostages. That suspect has allowed into the country for political asylum, but was involved in the murder of a domestic partner, accusations of sex assault in 40 cases and had terrorist ties as well. Unfortunately, most of us have no control over this piece, unless the threats are coming from an internal source.

            Second, take threats seriously. One of the most common security mistakes is that of not taking dangerous situations or threats as seriously as we should. In this case, a police officer was assigned to protect the magazine’s editor after threats were made. However, the police officer was not able to stop the attack. Even if he were armed, it was not enough to match the terrorists, who had rifles. If the threats were taken more seriously, the officer should have been able to monitor the approaches to the building and control access before the terrorists could enter the building. Being able to set up a perimeter, either with cameras or an actual physical presence would have helped create an early deterrent or obstacle for any attack. In this case, the terrorists actually went to the wrong address first, and then were stopped by a locked door until an employee was forced to open it under duress. Early warning would have possibly given time for the would-be victims to escape, hide or barricade themselves behind shelter.

            Third, any group that could be a target of terrorists should focus on building security awareness amongst employees and educate everyone to be on the alert for suspicious activity. Any attack follows a surveillance stage. The surveillance stage is really the best opportunity for security personnel or other employees to identify the pending danger. Persons taking photos or loitering around a target location could easily be gathering intel. Attackers will often try to take pictures of security cameras and their locations, as well as watch security personnel making rounds or conducting patrols. Sometimes, an attacker may call in a bomb threat or other type of threat to see what the response is and help identify how many security personnel may be at the site and get an idea of the response protocols. Other ways that a terrorist may test security is by trying to enter restricted areas or parts of a building that are normally for employees only. 

            Fourth, take action. Once these warning signs or even a combination of some, are seen, it is critical to take some action to thwart or divert an attack. In the case of the Paris attack, the death threats may have been the first warning. If employees or security had noted activity around the premise, it is likely that some of the surveillance stages would have been seen. If that had happened, the next step would have been to increase the presence of armed police or security officers, both visible and plain-clothes, to deal with possible attack.

            Of course, the real challenge is our own internal human nature. It seems to be natural to make excuses for threats and deny that anything bad is really tied to the suspicious activity. And the cost of extra protection measures is another big deterrent. 

            That brings me to the last lesson learned. Every organization should create a plan in advance on how to deal with a variety of security issues, including what the response will be when a threat is received. The plan should include awareness, training and a response component, combining all the above lessons learned. 

            Bon sécurité.

Combining his law enforcement and corporate security experiences plus a love of martial arts, Eric Smith created Business Karate, LLC, a Colorado-based security consulting firm. His new book, Workplace Security Essentials, outlines how any business, school, hospital or organization can master the art of self-defense, reduce losses, avoid liability and build a safer workplace. Visit www.businesskarate.com for more. Follow on Twitter @businesskarate
 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Watch Out for the Saber Tooth Tiger!


From the Suburban Survival blog



Imagine how different your life would be if you lived in caveman times. For one thing, you wouldn’t be reading this, unless I took the time to carve it out on stone or drew it as pictures on a cave wall somewhere.
Now imagine the kinds of things you might worry about. Many of today’s worries would be gone, but others would take the place. You might be thinking about the day in the office (okay, just another cave) at the wheel factory, wondering why a square doesn’t roll as well as an octagon. Maybe, it has to do with the octagon having more sides?
But as you leave, you remember the news that a saber tooth tiger had been spotted in the area a few nights ago. In fact, you heard that a neighbor’s cousin had actually seen it! As you begin the walk home through the fading daylight, you grip your club just a little bit tighter and make an effort to peer into the darkest shadows in the woods around you, with your ears tuned to the slightest sound. Quickly, the thoughts of work and octagons and square wheels are gone, evaporating as a cold fear clings to you, tighter than your wooly-mammoth onesie.
After a long walk, you make it home to your cave without encountering the vicious beast that had preoccupied your thoughts. The cave never seemed so cozy, but no time to think about the tiger anymore as your wife wants you to do something about the kids who refuse to play outside and spend hours staring into that new-fangled fire that you insisted on bringing home.
And now a quick trip back to the future, or at least the present day. How different we live, not just in terms of technology, but also how accustomed we get to living in a society that is relatively safe. There are no more saber tooth tigers ready to pounce as we head home from work. In fact, we hardly give safety or security a thought at all as we go about our business.
Although we often ignore them, there are still risks. You may not need to carry your club with you everywhere, but it is still smart to stay aware of your surroundings and alert to what is going on around you. The best security advice you could follow is quite simply to stay aware.
Criminals often count on catching victims unaware and being overwhelming them by surprise. I just recently read an interesting article on tactics used by pick-pockets. Some of the pick-pockets interviewed in the article admitted that if they saw a potential victim paying attention to those around them and alert to his or her environment, the crook would pick a different, easier, target to ply their illicit trade.
It is easy advice, like locking your doors when you leave, but still often ignored or overlooked. It is very easy to lose that awareness, perhaps now more than ever. After all, never before in history have people had such access to distraction as we have today. Smartphones are a huge cause of our alertness-deficiency. You can hardly walk down the street without seeing many of the people around you with the phone up in front of them, their head tucked down and thumbs flying over the virtual keypad. Texting. Tweeting. Facebooking. Googling. And maybe even some reading. All are constantly screaming for our attention.
Even at a stop light, look at the driver’s around you. You’ll almost always see at least one person sneaking in a quick text or message. More alarming is the number of people driving around who don’t even wait for a stoplight to continue their messaging. You can easily pick them out by their erratic speeds, weaving and generally clueless.
So, if you are serious about personal safety and security, put the phone away. When you are walking to your car or down the street, take the time to look around you. Is there anyone lurking around who seems suspicious or groups of people who may be paying an overly amount of attention to you?
Police officers develop observation skills by constantly looking at passing vehicles or pedestrians. Training officers grill recruits about a description of the driver in the red car that just passed, or ask for a description of someone standing on the corner you just drove through. Police officers also learn to watch the hands, for signs that someone has a concealed weapon or may be reaching for one.
Build your own awareness through similar drills. Make the effort to pay attention to people in your surroundings and note something about their description, even something as simple as jacket color or something distinctive. As you do this, you will also notice those things that make you say "mmm." Even if it is on a subconscious level.
Today, you may not have to worry about attacks by a saber tooth tiger and certainly should not live in fear. Be smart and stay alert to your surroundings and you will be well on your way to avoiding the modern version of our hungry tiger.

Suburban Survival Tip - Stay off the cell phone when walking around town and watch out for saber-tooth tigers. 
Photos from Wiki Commons


Combining his law enforcement and corporate security experiences plus a love of martial arts, Eric Smith created Business Karate, LLC. His new book, Workplace Security Essentials, outlines how any business, school, hospital or organization can master the art of self-defense, reduce losses, avoid liability and build a safer workplace. Visit www.businesskarate.com for more. Follow on Twitter @businesskarate