Executive protection requires risk assessment, cost-benefit analysis and old-fashioned legwork. Here is the first of six executive protection fundamentals.

Executive Protection Tip #1: Ask questions early (and often)

Whether you are starting an EP program or just looking to tune up a preexisting plan, the first step we take is to conduct a thorough risk analysis. You need to identify the individuals who are critical to your organization, assess the impact to the corporation if they were lost and examine the risks that each of those people faces.

Is there a history of threats against any of these individuals?

Do they travel regularly to dangerous places?

To what kinds of crimes or dangerous situations are they most vulnerable?

Some executives keep a very low profile. Others, such as Donald Trump and Richard Branson, aggressively court media attention and risk attracting the notice of undesirables as well as fans.

Once you have determined the individuals who need protection, you need to know everything about their public and private lifestyles. This is called creating a “principal profile,” and it requires the executive’s full cooperation.

You need to know everything about his work and home lives—everything from detailed information about his home, his family’s habits and any organizations and clubs he frequents. It’s also important to investigate how easy it is for outsiders to get information on your principal and his family.

Arnette Heintze, director of security with a Fortune 100 company and a retired U.S. Secret Service special agent in charge, advises doing a little online surfing. “Some companies are way too proud about putting everything they can about their executive and his family up on their website,” says Heintze. “If someone is stalking a certain CEO, he can find out a lot of information on the Web.” (If there is a lot there, the protection team needs to educate the marketing and communications staffs about what publicized personal details could put an executive at risk.)

Based on what the protection team learns about its subjects, We will start to get a picture of what kinds of security measures you’ll need to take. Some companies find that their executives need very little protection. Others need a 24/7 command post set up in their home. You should also consider whether your industry has a standard for executive protection. Companies in high-risk industries might find that there are some common levels of protection used for their executives. For example, executives at large financial services companies might have panic alarms in their homes as a standard security protocol. We are familiar with common protective measures in many industries.

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