Tech tools for halls & walls security


October 21, 2016 - By Sean Paul Schuriemen & Christian West

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In this blog, you’ll learn how we use technology to improve the effectiveness – and efficiency – of halls & walls security as part of the executive protection effort.

In the good old days, there were few tools other than black coffee and an uncomfortable chair that made much of a difference to the job of “sitting outside a hotel room all night trying to stay awake”. Halls & walls security was often considered entry-level work for executive protection agents, and not much emphasis was put on either developing technology or methodologies.

But while halls & walls details might at first glance appear less glamourous than other close protection work, it is no less important. As we pointed out in our last blog, just consider what best-in-class halls & walls security could have done to prevent or mitigate the impact of the recent Kim Kardashian robbery in Paris.

And actually, “the good old days” were not always that great. We now know that tech can seriously improve halls & walls performance, so it’s an important part of our capabilities moving forward.

Why halls & walls matters in the overall executive protective system – and how tech helps

Of course, without solid training and reliable, tested SOPs, all the tech gear in the world doesn’t matter to protective security. The same holds true for tools for halls & walls. Still, when enhanced by the proper tech and procedures, halls & walls security is an important part of EP work for a number of reasons:

  • Unlike the simple use of security cameras, tech-enhanced halls & walls is not about recording what happened (although this can also be helpful). It’s about using tech to deter or prevent things from happening, and thus mitigate risk.
  • It does this by controlling and limiting access to the principal, especially during travel to places where such access control may not otherwise be reliably secured.
  • The physical presence of agents will always be part of real halls & walls security. Tech can, however, leverage the effectiveness of one or two agents and increase their productivity manyfold.
    • As they say in the military, tech tools can be a “force multiplier” that provides more – and better – halls and walls security without increasing headcount.
    • Instead of struggling to stay wake as they keep an eye on a specific space, agents can use tech to generate alerts – and allow them to spend brain power on other pursuits, such as intel work, while “they’re just sitting around anyway”.
    • When enhanced by tech, halls and walls teams can choose to turn their visibility up or down. Sometimes it’s important to be noticed as part of the deterrence objective. Other times, the principal is not interested in appearing to be in a protective bubble. Tech lets us turn the dial up or down on overt/covert halls and walls operations.

Types of tech tools for halls & walls security – and how they work together before, during and after a detail

The tech tools we use for halls & walls security fall into five main categories: communications, TSCM, sensors, mobile operations coordination and emergency incident response.

With the exception of communication tools, which are useful no matter where or when (see our blog on comms for more information), these types of tools roughly correspond to the flow of how we secure an area before, during and after a protective detail:

  • Before: We use TSCM gear to make sure the spaces where the principal will be are clear of surveillance. See our blog on TSCM tools for more information. We then set up a variety of sensors to maintain the integrity of our TSCM sweeps.
  • During:  We rely on our sensors to enhance our situational awareness of relevant spaces and gather information on what’s happening, and mobile operations coordination tools to collaborate and coordinate protective measures. If necessary, we also make use of emergency incident response tools.
  • After: Sometimes, after a detail has been completed, it can be helpful to use information gathered by sensors for after-action reviews, analyses or even investigations.

Sensors increase situational awareness…

A wide variety of sensors make up the bulk of the halls & walls tool kit.

These include:

  • Mobile camera systems
  • Motion detection sensors
  • Smoke detection devices
  • Infrared sensors
  • Barometric pressure sensors

…but must never compromise the principal’s privacy

Protecting the privacy of the principal is paramount to all we do, and use of sensors – sophisticated or simple – must never compromise this.

Even though it might be helpful for security reasons to have eyes and ears on the wall in all the spaces where we know the principal will be, we never just do that. Installing sensors in the principal’s hotel room would be completely out of  the question – and out of bounds – in almost any case imaginable, for example, and often inappropriate in other spaces, too.

Sensors must never invade client privacy. Period. And while we don’t need to involve the principal in all the nitty-gritty, transparency of operations toward clients is essential to ensure this. They should be informed of the types of sensors we’re using, and how we’re using them.

Mobile operations tools empower team coordination and better intel

Pulling information together in a mobile operations center can provide a huge preventative and reactive advantage. It is now possible to combine a wide variety of information sources all in one place – no matter whether your operations hub is back at HQ or inside a hotel room – to give mobile teams significant protective benefits.

These disparate information sources include:

  • Data from halls & walls sensors
  • Information from on-the-ground agents
  • Feeds from third-party and other intelligence sources
  • Asset and traveller tracking systems, including our own ODIN

Halls and walls agents have a lot of time where they are “just on post”. Yes, they’re keeping eyes and ears where they should, but they often have surplus brain power that can add value to your intel team. Smart EP managers know this, and they equip their halls and walls team with training, instruction and tech that expand their capabilities and increase team efficiency and value to the client.

Tools for emergency incident response are always part of the kit

The final type of tech we want to take a look at is the stuff you hope you’ll never need, but would be foolish to travel without.

Halls and walls teams should of course be ready to handle medical emergencies – see our recent blog by Eric Stewart for the ultimate gear list.

All halls and walls teams should also be ready to deal with fire. Literally.

While the likelihood of hotel fires decreases with the number of stars they earn, we see no reason for the halls & walls team not to travel with smoke detectors as well as good, compact evacuation masks like the one we featured in our gadget roundup last December – both for the principal and for themselves.

Future trends for halls and walls technology

Like all other tech, halls and walls tools continue to get better, smaller and cheaper.

We think these equipment types will see interesting innovations in the next few years, particularly concerning how they integrate, and enable teams to use them to increase the principal’s safety and the protective team’s efficiency.

Sean Paul Schuriemen

Deputy Director, Intelligence Operations

Sean Schuhriemen brings 20+ years experience from the U.S. Navy, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the private sector as a security and intelligence consultant.

Sean has worked in project management, technology, and as an emergency medical technician. Sean’s military, Agency, and security-related school/training include: recurrent medical and protection techniques, surveillance detection (planning, development, and execution), paramilitary operations, counter-intelligence, intelligence field tradecraft, asset protection, TSCM sweeps, technical exploitation, logistics planning, communications, due diligence, behavior assessment and elicitation, applied behavioral psychology, site surveys, emergency vehicle operator’s course and an evasive driving course, recurrent weapons qualifications. In addition, Sean is also certified in denial and deception (basic & advanced).

Sean is a reserve police officer with the ability to support armed in all 50 states, Guam and Puerto Rico. He has a B.A.in psychology from the University of La Verne and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in intelligence from AMU.

Christian West

Founder and CEO

Christian has been active in the executive protection industry since the late 1980s, when he worked for Danish musicians who relocated to Hollywood. Upon returning to Denmark, he founded his own EP company, which he quickly grew into Scandinavia’s largest, before it was acquired by Securitas.

Christian founded AS Solution in 2003, and again in 2009 followed his international clients to the US, where he is now based. An active member of ASIS and a leader in the corporate executive protection industry, Christian has personally planned and led high-profile engagements in over 76 countries for a wide variety of corporate and high net worth individual clients, including the international roadshow for the biggest IPO in history.