Threat recognition is a game of speed. For executive protection specialists, delays or hesitations in decision-making upon recognizing a threat can be the difference between success and failure while working on protection detail. Because there are some behavioral observations that need to be made immediately upon entering an area and some assessments that can wait until an initial level of safety has been established before being turned to, it is important for a protector (especially one just entering the field) to know which assessment needs to be made and in what order. Improving the method for establishing a baseline in operational settings has been one of our greatest focuses over the last few years. The recent release of our flow charts for how to conduct a hasty search and a deliberate search represents the most current techniques that we use to ensure both speed and accuracy in establishing baselines and searching for anomalies, but what the diagrams don’t show is when a person should begin the deliberate search.
The primary reason why we divide the establishment of a baseline into two phases (hasty and deliberate) is because a full and complete baseline (the result of the deliberate search) is not always needed. There might be situations where you aren’t in the area long enough to even complete both searches. There might be times when you are walking or driving and to try and complete both searches would completely overwhelm you mentally. There might be times when your brain has to be focused on things besides your safety, so you might not be able to dedicate all of your cognitive resources to establishing baselines and looking for anomalies with 100% of your attention. The division between the hasty search and deliberate search exists so that you know the minimum you should be doing (the hasty search) and you know how to conduct the deliberate search when that level of depth in the baseline is needed. But that distinction also creates the question of when a protection specialist should make the transition from the hasty search and begin to conduct the deliberate search.
This question became apparent to me during a recent conversation with Chris Pendas. Chris is a security professional, the owner of the Staying Safe – Self Defense website and a graduate of our Tactical Analysis program. Chris recently recorded a video of himself conducting a hasty search while walking from his apartment building to the subway station, a task that many people can relate to as they commute to work each day. To set the stage for our discussion about transitioning from the hasty search into the deliberate search, start by watching the video he made and think about the steps that go into each search.
As you watched the video, you may have noticed that he begins to make some assessments about the environment as he identifies habitual areas and anchor points (a deliberate search task), even though he is intentionally trying to limit himself to the hasty search. During our conversation, Chris asked about the times when he should make the transition into the deliberate search. Because answering questions in a way that implies you will “know it when you see it,” or that it is “situationally dependent” is a lazy form of instruction, I provided Chris with three situations when we advise our students and clients to make the transition from the hasty search and begin the deliberate search to heighten their level of situational awareness. Since Chris’ video is of him walking, each of these situations is focused on