Learn the sequence of an Op Order. How to run an operations room and Project management skills
It’s rare for any full-time assignment to run without an operations room. If the protection assignment is being run by a company that is providing Close Protection Officers on a sub contract basis then the operation may be controlled from the company operations room, which may be located miles from the actual operation. This is especially true when the assignment only uses one or two protection officers at any one time.
When full security teams are used, with large numbers of protection officers, then invariably there will be an operation room on site. Over the years, I have seen operations rooms set up in spare bedrooms, stables, caravans and garden sheds. Anywhere, in fact, can be used as an operations room but obviously some places are much better than others.
Where should the operations room be located?
Closed-circuit television has negated the need for ops rooms to resemble aircraft control towers with 360 degrees visibility. Cameras that can cover the whole of the site, even when it’s dark; seismic detectors that let you know about every footfall on the lawn can all now be linked to a discreetly placed operations room.
When you look for somewhere to place the operations room, you should take into consideration its 24-hour function and how this might impact the Principal and his family. Especially if the operations room is situated in or very near the main house.
Temporary operation rooms
Having a location to collate intelligence, brief team members, charge radios and issue instructions is vital. If you are stopping anywhere for more than a couple of hours you will always find the best place to work from and this will become your ‘temporary ops room’. This might be a vehicle, a conference room in an office, or the kitchen of a residence. You probably won’t even call it the ‘ops room’ but that is what it will become during your short stay.
The Principal’s residence, his office and probably his yacht will have an operations room. It is difficult to manage the day-to-day running of a large protective team without the facilities that a well-equipped operations room can offer.
The operations room becomes the hub of the whole operation where every bit of intelligence, every threat assessment is located and all security decision and instructions are issued.
In a well-equipped operations room you will find plenty of equipment and information to enable the smooth running of an assignment.
- Two-way radios and auxiliary equipment such as chargers, ear and throat microphones, etc.
- External antennas
- Computer with broadband internet access
- Landline and mobile telephone
- CCTV monitors
- Comprehensive first aid kit
- Vehicle search kit
- Gas masks
- Metal detectors
- Mail screening equipment
- Weapons and ammunition, if applicable
The operations log
The operations room will have an operations log and all occurrences, whether routine or extraordinary, are recorded in it. Increasingly, the log is kept on a computer and if so a hard copy of the log should be printed each day and filed for reference. If you decide not to do this, I will guarantee that you will regret it. Old logs can be vital and you may need to refer to them for a number of reasons. Actual examples include, the Principal asks for the name of the visitor from XYZ Company that visited him last January; the loss adjuster wants to know who was actually on duty and where at a particular date and time or details of a suspect vehicle spotted a month ago on surveillance detection as someone thinks they have seen it again.
Computers can make our life a lot easier, but only when they are working. Unfortunately, they do stop working just when you really need them so having hard copy backups of operations logs makes good sense.
Other records and information
A busy operations room will keep a few logs and registers on the go. There will be registers to sign, so you might sign for keys, cars or radios. If a site has a lot of visitors you may have a dedicated visitor log, or maybe a contractors log to keep track of tradesmen working on site.
The operations room will have all of the necessary information and intelligence for the smooth and efficient running of the operation. This information will include heavy stuff like information on all known threats and enemies, and their methods of operation. It will have detailed maps of all the relevant locations and buildings, safe rooms etc. It will have details of route reconnaissance and local information. It will also have many lists, lists of the locations of everyone, expected visitors, personnel, house staff, vehicles, vehicles allowed on site, insured drivers, shift patterns, emergency telephone numbers, team mobile numbers, call signs, and so on.
All of this information will assist the team leader in running the protective assignment to the best of the team’s ability and budget. Operations rooms are almost always run on a 24/7 basis and two team leaders each working a 12 hour shift, cover each full day of operations
On operation order (op-order) is when a team leader briefs the team on all aspects of the upcoming operation. The operation order might relate to just one small part of the whole protection assignment, such as the op order you might receive prior to travelling abroad to do some advance work, or, it might, if you are in at the start of the assignment, be the order which details the whole of an assignment from start to finish.
When working `one-on-one’ or if you are just part of a two or three man protection team, the need for a detailed op-order is still important. You should still compile the order even if it is just for yourself because the orders are so designed to cover most eventualities
The larger the team and the more complex the security arrangements the more important it is that a formal operation order is implemented and passed to everyone so that every person on the team knows exactly what is happening and precisely what he is doing. Many companies still use a military operation order; if they do it will look something like this:
- Service Support
- Command and signals
- Atts and dets
These headings sometimes don’t work too well when planning Close Protection operations but as many companies still use them you need to have an understanding of how it is presented.
This part of the operations order generally describes the ‘ground’ of that you will be working upon. That ground could be downtown Los Angeles or the Mediterranean Sea. In this part of the operation order you will be given information about routes that will be taken, maps of the general area, places of interest, as well as any venues that the Principal might be using.
This will be the main part of the order. It will specify who you’re looking after, why you’re looking after them, and the possible threats against them. It will list how large the team is, what equipment you have, etc.
This will outline the overall objective of the protective assignment. For instance, it might be to protect Colonel Hertz van Rental during his stay on the yacht ‘Elizabeth’ while in the Bay of Roses, for seven days commencing…
This will be the most detailed phase of the operation order; it will explain exactly how the mission is to be achieved. It will let everyone on the team know exactly what they’re doing for the duration of the operation.
Service and support
This part of the operation order lets everyone know about the kit they’ve got to do the job with. This might include first aid kits, telephones, vehicles, night vision equipment, respirators, etc.
Command and signals
The command of signals part of the operations order will go into detail about radio frequencies and call signs, code-words and spot codes. All the mobile telephone numbers that you need to know will be listed here.
Atts and Dets
These are military abbreviations for attachments and detachments. We may have members of our team detached to the local police or coordinating with regular security guarding force. These would be detachments. Attachments on the other hand are people who would be attached to the team. We might have drivers with expert knowledge of the city we are in; we could have police, cooks, or interpreters involved in the operation; these are all known as attachments.
Specific to Close Protection, if you base an operation order on the 6Ws, you might find this better suited to delivering a coherent and effective operation order. The sequence is as follows:
Who are we looking after?
All details of the Principal would appear under this heading – pictures and/or video of the Principal would be shown. A summary of the Principal’s background and status would be explained here. A full profile of the Principal including the 7P’s
When are we looking after him?
The second W deals with the dates, timings and the duration of the operation.
Why are we looking after him?
Details of a specific threat, with a general threat assessment explaining why the security is necessary.
Where are we looking after him?
Under this heading will be all of the items that were included in the ‘ground@ heading of the military operation order’.
Who is doing what?
Here there will be a detailed description of everyone’s duties and responsibilities at each phase of the operation. It will include everything they need to do and exactly when they will be doing it.
With what equipment and assistance?
All equipment, radios and call signs search kits, vehicles, etc. Contact numbers for Police and Ambulance, Embassy, etc.
If you take over the running of an operation, most of the systems will already be in place and while you will want to put your personal stamp on the operation and get things running just how you like, you will be able to change things slowly as the operation progresses. In contrast, if you are lucky enough to be starting a new assignment, the amount of work that must be done before the protection can begin can be daunting. You will have to carry out:
- Threat assessments/profile of the Principal
- Build detailed ‘Who’s Who?’ tree
- A plan to counter all the threats/risk
- Decide on minimum operator numbers and kit
- Test all kit, site and build an operations room
- Check all emergency kit, fire and first aid boxes, etc.
- All vehicles systematically searched and secured
- Security surveys of all relevant properties
- Local area knowledge/intelligence/routes/recces
- Briefings to everyone that needs to know.
You will also outline ‘action-on-drills’ for:
- Successful surveillance detection
- Kidnap attempts
- Physical attacks
- Fire and bomb evacuation plans (they will be different)
- Dealing with press intrusions
Starting a new assignment can be a challenge. If the assignment has a large team or you have more than one Principal to look after, say a whole family, the team leader needs to have some idea of project management.
In essence, you will decide on a list of things that need to be done prior to the protection operation. This list needs to be as complete as you can make it.
Once you have this list of ‘tasks’, you need make a list of the ‘resources’ that you will need to complete the tasks. Resources are manpower and equipment.
When you have lists of tasks and resources you must ‘schedule’ them in a logical way. A really simple example will explain how this is done. Three of our tasks concerning hire cars might be:
- Wash hire cars
- Collect hire cars
- Search hire cars
When you schedule these tasks the sequence is pretty obvious. We cannot wash them before we have got them and it will probably be better to search them before we wash them.
But what if there is another task that involves the use of one of the cars? Let’s say that a route recce to the airport needs doing. Maybe we can delay the washing until this has been done. It might save us washing the car unnecessarily.
If you use a computer you can use project management software that will allocate resources to all of your tasks and present them to you in various forms and charts. The best of the bunch is Microsoft Project but it is very expensive so get your Principal to treat you! If your assignment is simple or you do not have access to computers and project management software you can place your tasks and resources on a simple time-line like the one shown below.