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Security at Sea: Proactive vs Reactive

cass globa

Security is awash with references to “Proactive” operations and bemoans the hazards of “Reactive” style security. Let me clarify the difference.

Reactive security is, as the name implies, based on reacting to an external stimulus, usually an unforeseen and occasionally dangerous one. The security team should be highly proficient in a set series of drills that are designed to counteract the threat once it is perceived and identified. These are often called “immediate action drills” and the military spends countless hours perfecting them. Having said that, they are fairly rigid and somewhat inflexible. They have to be otherwise they don’t work.

The overwhelming majority of Security Providers are 100% Reactive in nature and are stereotyped by the classic large male in a dark suit with sunglasses. These companies rely upon physical intimidation to deflect potential attackers. It also means they are generally “high profile” type services with all the positives and negatives that are associated with this style.

The catastrophic failure with ONLY Reactive style Security is that we are ceding the initiative to the opposition. This is a strategic error of the first magnitude as it allows those who wish to do our clients harm to, unhindered, chose the W5 (Who, What, Where, When and Why) and most importantly, How.

In short, Reactive means sitting around waiting for something bad to happen. Most companies endorse this style, usually complete with some murky advertising, because it is the easiest to implement and satisfies poorly educated clients who don’t REALLY understand what they are purchasing. It is the easiest to implement because the alternative requires highly intelligent human beings who are usually in short supply, hence the service equation falls to the lowest common denominator, which can be very low indeed.

Proactive security is complex, cerebral, requires mastery of a number of skill sets, and is nearly invisible when done correctly. Which is precisely why only a few companies are proficient at it. The premise is simple, but the execution is challenging.

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Proactive security is predicated upon seizing the initiative, not ceding it, and always keeping the other guy off balance and one step behind. This is implemented in a number of ways.

When & Where:

We tightly control the outflow of information, often dubbed as Operational Security, to the public. This means only a trusted few know the precise itinerary of our clients at any given time.


Discrete but aggressive counter surveillance, when coupled with the development of Low Level Intelligence Networks, defeats the “Who” as we can identify them before they can implement a negative course of action.


By running effective contingencies in “real time” we can sidestep the “What”.  A classic example is when executing foot or vehicle movements, all personnel are constantly assessing potential hazards. A simple example is driving, where our drivers, much like airline pilots, are constantly scanning for “outs” should the car ahead swerve in front, overtake rapidly from the rear, etc. In short, our personnel are already mentally planning for adverse actions, which means we are prepared for them should they occur.


Finally, the “How” succumbs to never ending internal assessments of weak points and easy approaches. We have all been on the offensive side of the coin, and are thus highly competent in our comprehension of what is required to mount any form of attack on the client, be it embarrassment, paparazzi, or physical.

The last point is one of harmonization. We stress repeatedly that all members of the team must work in unison. The plan will not work if the security element is at loggerheads with personal assistants, subordinate leaders, etc. so we must approach all participants with the precise aim of collective effort. In so doing we create a safer ring of security around the client, improve efficiency, and boost morale.

*Image Credit Shutterstock/Iculig

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