BY JUAN A. GARCIA
Do business executives really need to undergo personal security training prior to traveling or operating throughout Latin America? Is it vital to learn about attack recognition, emergency planning, surveillance detection, defensive driving, and personal protective measures?
Far too many business professionals will answer this question with a resounding no. Their belief is that nothing will happen. Many businessmen and women think that all the security precaution they need apply is to just look around once in a while. But look around for what? Would you know how to recognize the pre-threat indicators?
I have spoken to several business executives that travel frequently throughout Latin America. Their attitude is that they know enough about personal security. Too often I find that once an individual has traveled overseas several times and nothing has happened, complacency usually sets in. I often attempt to remind these individuals that what they should train for is the one to five percent chance of being attacked. It is easy to fall into the psychological trap of, “why spend money when nothing happens.” It is far simpler to read a web-site or brochure and believe that you know it all, or know enough.
But what happens if that one to five percent of trouble finds you? What if a career criminal starts to target you? Do you really think you can recognize the pre-threat indicators? I am not talking about the Hollywood type pre-threat indicators that we see in the movies, but real, hard-core professional criminal targeting of a potential victim.
MY BEST ADVICE
Here is the best advice that I am going to give any business professional traveling to Latin America, take a course or two on personal security. There are several countries throughout the region where the political climate has changed. This transitional period can have adverse effects on the safety situation on the ground for the business executive. Even if the country you are visiting has a semi-stable political climate, it does not mean that spill-over from its neighbor will not have an impact on personal security. It is imperative to mitigate the risks before a violent incident occurs. Why wait until you, a family member, or an employee has been victimized? Living with the aftermath of being a victimized is to traumatizing for many citizens to handle.
For the past several years, I have traveled to Mexico to conduct anti-kidnapping training for several Mexican clients. I recently returned from conducting a kidnapping/personal security class where an Iraq War style firefight occurred a few hours and miles from where I gave the class. This attack resulted in thirteen individuals (drug/gang members) being killed and many more wounded. What amazes me is when I see Americans strolling around without any situational awareness of what is happening around them. This is pure insanity especially when certain areas within Mexico such as Tijuana are extremely dangerous.
Every business professional that travels frequently throughout Latin America should learn about the following subjects:
1) Survival mindset (mental state of mind before, during and after an attack)
2) Attack recognition (recognizing pre-indicators)
3) Recognizing hostile surveillance (understanding surveillance techniques)
4) Conducting route surveys (choosing safe routes)
5) Emergency planning (pre-trip planning, contingency plans)
6) Street awareness (using taxi’s, ATM’s)
7) Vehicle security measures (security considerations)
8) Defensive driving
With several Latin American countries undergoing transitional political periods, the option of doing nothing or very little has become increasingly dangerous. Before you travel, ask yourself this: what is more important - spending a few hundred dollars on training, or a lifetime of nightmares stemming from a violent criminal attack such as a kidnapping, armed robbery, or being caught in the middle of a civil breakdown of law and order?
Is spending a day or two going through a training course really going to make a difference? You bet it is. Nothing beats training! When that one to five percent chance comes, you will be in a greater advantageous position to mitigate the effects of a violent encounter.
Remember security is your responsibility. Be prepared for the unexpected!
Juan A. Garcia Jr. is the Owner and Chief Instructor of High Risk Security Services. HRSS specializes in providing personal security / anti-kidnapping training for executives, expatriates, travelers, and organizations worldwide. Mr. Garcia is a former U.S. Army Paratrooper and Marine Corps Infantryman with more than 25 years of experience in tactical, anti-terrorism, and physical security operations. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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