Close Protection: the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic
2020 – a year we won’t likely forget
The impact of the coronavirus pandemic has touched everyone. Many have had to adapt the way they do business and how they may need to deliver it in the future. None more so than those delivering Close Protection.
Those whose work necessitates dealing directly and requiring physical interaction with other people, must now adapt. Can Close Protection be as ‘close’ as it once was? Probably, but how do we manage and deliver this provision effectively in these current challenging times?
The fundamental delivery of close protection is to protect our clients from actual and perceived threats. Our risk assessments are formulated on various risk factors including medical and wellbeing considerations (health, environment, etc.), but now we have to include this globally impacting virus that not only could incapacitate the client but also the personal protection officer/team.
Our considerations now have to include the potential health risk of contact with third parties – associates, clients, drivers, chefs, support staff, hotels, offices and venues to be visited – universally and regardless of country, for the time being.
The coronavirus is extremely complex and still difficult to quantify. Much of the coronavirus testing promoted by governments has generally been directed to only those that have developed any of the recognised symptoms.
Little is still known about the period of pre-symptomatic infectiousness or the effective detecting of the asymptomatic – those not demonstrating any symptoms yet infectious with virus. I believe that testing (and regularly) and maintaining good hygiene protocols has to be an integral part of pre- and throughout deployment both for client and PPO.
Will that mean that only those who’ve previously contracted it and recovered (displaying IgG antibodies) are potentially ‘fit for protecting/work’ or do waivers need to be generally agreed beforehand, as it is still uncertain as to whether it can still be re-contracted?
I believe clients will fall into two categories in this regard. Those that will be highly conscious and cautious and those that won’t. As a personal protection officer, we need to be prepared to facilitate for both mindsets, not only for the client but for ourselves and decide whether the risk of contracting the virus is something we’re also prepared to mitigate for the time being at least.
So how could close protection work in practice?
One thing that does play to our advantage in this ‘new normal’ is social distancing. Everyone has become used to practising this on a daily basis every time we leave our homes or are in company of others outside our immediate family. Could this be a blessing in disguise?
Over the last two decades, I’ve seen close protection evolve significantly from the ‘close-up’ delivery to a more discreet, blended-into- the-background approach. Clients generally have a preference for this. This does come with its own challenges and in certain circumstances, it simply can’t or shouldn’t be done. However, where possible, this ‘reactive OP’ approach – broadening the perimeter of the vital ground around the clients – allows the client the feeling of more liberty, privacy to take and make personal and confidential calls, without their personal protection officer breathing down their collar. It can now be also reasoned for their health and wellbeing.
Social distancing could likely help on a number of levels. Firstly, the conscious distancing by the majority of people will likely prevent them entering our ‘box’, whilst those that do will be potentially more identifiable as either the deliberate or simply idiotic. Either one is likely to be even now more easily spotted and assessed as they, themselves, cannot now easily hide as they once did before.
However, some of these advantages, and wellbeing measures, may be short-lived. At the time of writing, the lockdown restrictions across the world are lifting further and the George Floyd protests are occurring across the USA and the UK.
The media coverage demonstrates that many people within the UK have already tired of the restrictions and are flooding parks and beaches and that even in the country where the pandemic is most drastically impacting, people are still amassing in their numbers to protest and riot.
All thoughts and considerations about transmitting and contracting the disease are apparently ignored. (Call me cynical, but the face coverings are perhaps more for anonymising than health reasons.) Impatience, emotions and agenda are now taking priority over their own health.
So will things really change in the longer term? I still believe they could. A bit. I think that even as the virus is suppressed and becomes less critical, some human behaviours cultivated during these challenging times might still prevail: the respectful acceptance of the need for social distance. Anything that contributes to an early warning can likely only help.
International Corporate Protection (ICP) Group
See other articles from Will Geddes
Close protection: what makes a good CPO?
Resilience – isn’t it just business continuity planning?