Hostile Environment Awareness Training (HEAT) doesn't need to be Hostile

Hostile Environment Awareness Training (HEAT) doesn't need to be Hostile

There’s no doubt about it Hostile Environment training is on the tip of everyones’ tongues these days.  What was once the preserve of journalists, contractors working in Oil and Gas and other intrepid souls is becoming more and more relevant to (and sought after by) business travellers venturing overseas. 

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The end of public policing as we know it

Copy of one of Rupert’s articles printed in The Intersec Journal

Tuesday the 27th of February and I am sitting at my desk, the school run done, cold fingers gratefully wrapped around a mug of tea and I am pondering a way to start my article on the future of public policing.  Writers block not withstanding I take a quick look at the BBC News website and there was my start point.  Chief Constable Sara Thornton was commenting on the interview by the Met Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley that basically the UK Police couldn’t cope with Terror and Crime at the same time at current levels. Incidents were up, money was down and continuing to go down, not a comfortable calculation or statement to make.

I had the idea for the article while studying for my CPP qualification.  At the beginning of 2017 I had a realisation, whilst helping my daughter with her homework and chatting to her about the importance of lifelong learning (poor thing’s only five), that I had been so busy working, that I hadn’t done any self-development or saw sharpening myself, for some considerable time. 

So, I looked around, took advice and finally settled upon a blended Distance Learning and residential course in all round security skills.  A way to fill in the gaps in my knowledge and catch up with current thought and best practice.  While reading the books I happened upon a chapter which surprised me it was about how policing was about to change.

What exactly are the implications of what those two senior Police Officers have said?  Under the current strain they can’t fight terror and do community policing well enough.  I don’t claim to have my finger firmly rooted on the pulse of the UK economy, I read when get a chance but like most of us, have to catch snippets here and there when I can. 

But no matter how busy you are, you can’t have missed the fact that we’re rather short of money as a nation.  Every function of Govt is taking crippling cuts and services are failing around us.   How are the Police expected to deal with an uptick in terrorism on a reducing pot of money. Quite honestly, I think most people don’t care as long as they don’t have to see it or hear it.  But someone has to.

I would like to take you back very briefly if I may to Sept 11, 2001.

I was at work when the twin towers came down, sitting at my desk completely unaware with my headphones in, happily working away in my own little bubble.  I looked up from my computer and the place was deserted, I made myself a brew and went looking.  Men and women in small clusters staring at radios open mouthed, brushed my questions aside irritated trying to listen “What’s going on?” Bin Laden and his gang had bought down the Twin Towers, and that day ushered in a new fear that seems to permeate our lives still on many levels.

Since that dreadful event and the increasingly sickening events that followed it, we have become accustomed to seeing horrors on our TV, entire countries are ablaze and emptying, hundreds drown escaping the horror.  A growing realisation has been dawning on those in power that there needs to be a rethink in the way we police the land.

In 1837 a gentleman named Robert Peel created the police force in London, which was “of the people and for the people.” Designed to be a cohesive force that would professionalise protection for the people of London and greatly improve safety in those dark, foggy streets that we now only glimpse in BBC Dramas. 

Since its inception we have as a nation become so accustomed to the idea of placing our faith in a single agency as the guardians of our safety, that nowadays we couldn’t conceive of an alternative.  Private police forces are the preserve of immensely wealthy gated communities surely, there’s no place for them in Boscombe or Oban.

But before Robert Peel founded the public police, safety and security was indeed organised by villages and districts, comprised of volunteers who were called on to do their bit.  There were appointed officials known as Shire Reeves (where the word sheriff is derived from) who would coordinate and oversee matters, but by and large it was a volunteer force that stood up to the trouble makers and patrolled the streets.

Close to where I live there’s a neglected part of town that the local council seem to have forsaken.  One Saturday I was in my local branch of a well-known national newsagent.  As I bought my newspaper, the guy serving said “Excuse me a moment sir” and calmly reached for a walkie talkie on the counter.  Lifting it to his mouth he calmly spoke into the handset “Hey everyone, Ron has just passed my shop and is heading for the fountain”.  

Ron, I later discovered was a local shoplifter and low life, who was usually an hour away with his pockets full of booty, by the time the police arrived to take a statement, shrug and say, “Nothing we can do sadly”. The shop owners had had enough and decided to club together and do something about it. 

They got together, about 10 shops and cafes, bought walkie talkies, and came up with a bespoke solution to deal with him and others like him.  The larger chain shops who could afford a security guard allowed their guys to visit the smaller stores, so that they all benefited from the umbrella.  I remember thinking what a great idea it was, rather than just grumbling about the police and how they weren’t getting value for their taxes they’d found a simple solution by clubbing together.  Most thieves, fraudsters and their ilk will almost certainly just keep stealing if they don’t think they’re going to get caught, which clearly Ron thought would go on indefinitely.

So while I was sitting reading my CPP books up popped the idea in the text that like it or not (and most people won’t like it I expect) the relationship between public police (cops/bobbies on the beat) and private police is going to evolve into something more permanent.

Public police – the bobby or street cop.

Currently a public police officer on the beat, must deal with a bewildering array of incidents, call outs, disturbances and people in any given month.  There is a good amount of pressure from the media and high public expectations not to put a foot wrong in a wide variety of different situations. And at all times to carry yourself properly and courteously in the face of what sometimes must be frightening abuse from an unhelpful public.

He or she must be a competent generalist and to have his finger on the pulse in terms of the rules and regulations of the law and of course the characters, shop keepers, common problems in that large neighbourhood.  The addition of body cameras to protect themselves from prosecution and body armour to protect themselves from fundamentalists and crazies of all stripes must weight heavily especially on the young members of the force.

Then there’s the paperwork, and not forgetting the politically correct minefields in what seems to be still a very masculine organisation with lots of banter to deal with the stress. It is a lengthy process to get into the police and most ex-policemen that I know, would not chose to do it now which doesn’t help with recruitment and retention.  Add to this the additional burden as a public force of dealing with terrorism it starts to look like an almost impossible weight to bear.

Private policeman.

Compared to the street cop or bobby on the beat, the private security guard or private policeman will have a much more narrowly focussed job description and smaller range of potential incidents to deal with on a day to day basis.  His patch would most likely consist of one or two buildings and he would have the opportunity to become intimately familiar with his area, which would mean he’d notice the smallest changes. 

He or she would be able get to know the rhythm of the area, the local trouble makers (what time they appear) and would be able to suggest ways to improve things or deal with them or even help them.  He’d also hopefully build a level of trust with other staff at his place of work, who would in turn be able to voice concerns to him/her.

He’ll have an area that he will patrol so if he sees a broken window he can investigate it as soon as he sees it and see off the youths who did it or call work services who can fix it. There will be a limited range of things that can happen at a static location which will mean that his response time will be quick and effective as he or she is already on the scene.

Private police can be recruited and trained, given their arcs of responsibility within a short space of time and can be out their protecting their employers patch in fairly short order.  If they aren’t great at their jobs or show little aptitude they can be let go.

In some parts of the US ex-policemen are involved in these initiatives and are fostering greater links with the public police.  Current public police are involved in training their private counterparts and are even endowing them with limited legal powers of arrest and detention until a cop can arrive.  Despite the obvious cynicism about “hobby bobbies” forces in the US are seeing the benefit in a noticeable reduction in crime, which means the public are happier as are the public force.

Not long after the Paris Terror attacks the French army were on the streets in force, I thought at the time it was an odd thing to do because the terrorists were very unlikely to do it again in the face of Legionnaires armed to the teeth.  But then the penny dropped, the Army were on the streets to let everyone in France know that the state had their backs, and to let the criminals know that they were still being watched.  More importantly it allowed the Gendarmes the time and space (not distracted by the routine business of preserving order) to pull all the stops out to do good old-fashioned police work to catch the perpetrators and bring them to justice.

With limited funds to share around and potentially a whopping great bill from Brexit I don’t think we’ll be going back to the days of Shire Reeves and policing our own streets.  But I do think the wind of change is blowing in such a way that as the threat from International and home grown terror increases there will be more and more private policing arrangements to ease the burden on an overburdened public police who just cannot preserve order on our streets and combat terrorism without help.



Tracking Devices

Types of devices

Until I had used one myself I had always been a bit dubious about how useful tracking gadgets were.  After all, even if you knew where your colleagues were last seen or heard from, what practical use was it to you half way around the world looking at a screen.  So, here’s what I found out about them.

Tracking devices in isolation are not the silver bullet that some think they are.  To be useful travellers first need to get some professional advice as to what’s right for them and use them in conjunction with other platforms.  So, what kind of devices do people go for?

Pearl Pocket Buddy 

One of the most commonly used personal trackers is the Pearl Pocket Buddy. Mercifully it is very easy to set up for an individual traveller, and has an astonishing number of features for such a small device.  With current GPS wizardry inside it’s sleek lightweight shell it can lay a bread crumb trail refreshed every minute and is accurate down to 5 metres. 


It can Geo fence your route so if you have approved routes or indeed out of bounds areas, your monitoring station will be alerted if your colleagues stray in to one of these areas.  If your team are unfamiliar with their surroundings, their driver didn’t listen to the brief or if something more sinister happens the Ops room will know.  The alert can be followed up with a phone call or message which will enable the response team to escalate their actions until you’re located.

Pocket Buddy has an internal motion sensor, triggered if you fall over suddenly or stop abruptly (in an RTC or an ambush) in which case a message will be sent to the Ops Room.  A covert one button alert so you can activate it without any tell-tale beeps.  In some cases, it might be more sensible/useful to alert someone locally rather than in London on New York, so Pocket Buddy has 4 reprogrammable phone numbers so you can choose who you alert.  Unlike a bulky phone or GPS, you can secrete it about your person if abducted or subject to a brief or long detention.

Should the worst happen and you press for help, the response team will be immediately furnished with your name, number, date, time and Lat/Long co-ordinates.  All of which is vital information that they can utilise to start the search.  You can just imagine how difficult it would be without this head start.

In Reach SE

Holding it in the palm of your hand the InReach SE feels a lot like a cross between a classic handheld GPS and a mobile phone, but with the addition of a stubby antenna on the top.  Like the smaller Pocket Buddy, it has a 4-day battery life but also comes with all the cool functionality of a phone and GPS.  Users can send and receive 160-character messages and even access Twitter (a must for Donald Trump when he’s travelling).

in reach se

in reach se

It has that all important one button alert that will immediately send your coordinates along with the time and date and your name to your responder.  But you’ll also be able to take the call that will follow an activation just in case you’ve pressed it in your pocket by mistake and want to stand down the response. 

I have heard of very expensive call outs where ski-mountaineers (safely back at their desks in the city) who have had their beacons accidentally activated in their homes by luggage being moved around and a knock on the door of their homes in the small hours with a puzzled responder who was none too pleased and a follow up bill. Which probably made the eyes water.     

Iridium Go

If you’d prefer to just take your smart phone and don’t want a daysack full of additional handsets and chargers, you could add to its capability by turning it into a satellite phone.  The Iridium Go is a sturdy no nonsense device which is ruggedized to a military specification and water resistant to Ingress Protection (IP65).  Simply flip open the antenna, pop it on the dashboard, balcony, rock or roof, turn it on and wherever you are (providing it can see the sky and you’re not at the bottom of a well) it will connect to Iridium’s network of 66 Low Earth Orbiting (LEO) satellites, allowing you to connect all your devices to the outside world as if you were sitting at your desk.

Iridium 9575 Extreme

Or you could just go for a good old-fashioned satellite phone, like the 9575 Extreme which is in fact not in the least bit old fashioned.  Weighing only 247g it is fully programmable to your spec and can be transformed with an extra device into a Wi-Fi hotspot as long as you’re within sight of the aforementioned LEO satellites.  The 9575 with its breadcrumb trail tracker and emergency button, is the all singing all dancing data, SMS and voice solution for a traveller that’s not on too tight a budget.

iridium 9575 extreme

iridium 9575 extreme

Tracking devices such as the ones we’ve looked at are essential tools if your teams are going to areas where they need to stay connected, but only if your staff are trained in their use.  If the devices are looked after, if they are accompanied by a fully supported web based travel safety system, a set of realistic protocols and procedures which are adhered to by the staff on the ground and of course supported by the stay behind team.   And all of this requires work, effort, planning and money.

Sometimes the greatest learning can come from a disaster, just make sure you learn from someone else’s and it isn’t them learning from yours.


The Benefits of Stab and Spike Protection

Body armour should be considered an essential piece of equipment for anyone who faces an attack or injury, whether or not the attack involves a weapon. Body armor has myriad benefits which many do not consider, and is not just for those working in extremely dangerous environments. Indeed, in any situation the threat of attack or injury, particularly involving weapons, can be high. This is why everyone should consider body armor.

Body armor covers a wide range of protective clothing, and offers many different solutions. The most common and well known example is the bullet proof vest, which many assume is not necessarily the only body armor, but the most appropriate. However, there are many situations where a bullet proof vest is not appropriate. For example, bullet proof vests are only capable of stopping bullets. This seems like an obvious statement, yet many don’t realize that a bullet proof vest cannot stop knives or needles. Therefore, it is important that people understand exactly how stab and spike protection are achieved.

Stab and spike protection is used in the same way that bullet proof protection is, with a lightweight vest that will often use soft fabrics found in bullet proof vests. Stab and spike protection is usually achieved in addition to ballistic protection, as the soft materials like Kevlar have useful properties for any protective clothing. For example, the soft fabric is incredibly strong and flexible, and so can absorb and disperse large amounts of energy. This is what gives it its bullet resistant qualities, and allows for lightweight protection. This also means that any impacts will be mitigated to some extent, reducing the impact of an attack with handheld weapons.

However, this soft fabric is just that, and will not stand up to attacks with edged or spiked weapons. ‘Edged weapons’ usually refers to knives, broken bottles, and weapons like axes and machetes. The sharp edges of these weapons can cut through fabric, even strong fabric like Kevlar, and injure the wearer. For these weapons a stab proof vest is needed, which will usually use chainmail and/or plastic laminate to create a tough surface that can stop the weapon from penetrating.

‘Spiked weapons’ usually refers to needles, screwdrivers, or stilettos, which are capable of passing through the minute gaps between the fibers in a bullet proof vest. This again renders the protection useless and potentially injures the wearer. For protection against these weapons a spike proof vest is needed, which is usually only found in conjunction with stab protection, and can only use plastic laminate in order to stop the spiked weapon from penetrating.

Both stab and spike protection is usually found in conjunction with ballistic protection, because of the protective qualities inherent to the Kevlar. However, this will also afford some protection in a variety of other situations. For example, DuPont- the makers of Kevlar- regularly honor Police Officers who have been involved in otherwise fatal incidents but were protected by their body armor. A significant proportion of these Officers were involved in transportation accidents, in which their body armor mitigated the impact and saved their life.


A stab or spike proof vest is important for anyone who wears body armor to consider. While a bullet resistant vest can provide a great deal of protection in variety of situations, edged and spiked weapons are just too accessible and potentially deadly not to consider. Wearing a vest that is designed to stop weapons like knives and needles is a simple way of ensuring that you stay safe and can perform to the best of your ability.