Corporate Protection

PrEPping: What executive protection companies need to consider in preparing for operational continuity in the face of heightened uncertainty 1024 1024 ESLNA

PrEPping: What executive protection companies need to consider in preparing for operational continuity in the face of heightened uncertainty

In this blog, we take a look at the rapid rise in prepping and why executive protection professionals need to get better prepared to keep their companies and colleagues ready to help their clients and themselves.

Within the last decade, “prepping” has evolved from a niche interest into a mainstream movement. Once the domain of homesteaders and survivalists, prepping has now moved from the backcountry to the city, from the backyard to the boardroom. And while many still see preppers as fringe folks with an appetite for conspiracy theories, governments, NGOs, and corporations around the world see things differently. One person’s “prepping” is another’s “resilience building”, “risk management strategy”, or, as we like to call it, “forward thinking.”

According to a Finder study from 2023, in the U.S. alone about one-third of adults have begun prepping at one level or another and spend a jaw-dropping $11 billion annually on emergency preparedness. That’s a lot of toilet paper, among other things, but the trend is about much more than consumer spending. Did you know, for example, that 40% of Gen Z (born between 1997 and 2012) are preparing for an emergency, but just 18% of Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964)?

The worldwide surge in preparedness is not just about stashing away food or learning survival skills, however. It’s also about how people the world over understand the multifaceted risks we face today and take proactive steps to mitigate them. For executive protection companies, this trend underscores the critical need to prepare not only for the safety of their clients, but also to ensure the continuity of their own operations and the well-being of their employees. We’ll get to that in a moment, but first let’s take a closer look at why the prepping phenomenon has taken off so quickly in recent years.

Why the recent interest in prepping?

Several key drivers have propelled the prepping movement into the spotlight in recent years:

  • COVID-19: COVID highlighted more than the fragility of our immune and healthcare systems. It also made clear how a virus and responses to it could disrupt everything from supply chains to trust in government and social cohesion.
  • Natural disasters and climate change: The increasing frequency of extreme weather events, wildfires, and droughts has underscored the need for preparedness in many more regions than those that have traditionally dealt with disasters like earthquakes, hurricanes, and tornados.
  • Political and social unrest: Unrest of many different kinds in many countries and regions has created a widespread sense of uncertainty, driving individuals and communities to prioritize self-sufficiency and personal security.
  • Economic instability: Financial crises have made the importance of financial preparedness clear, including the need for savings and stockpiles of essential goods.
  • Technological vulnerabilities: Think of everything around you – and all the things connected to everything around you – that depend on electricity and/or the internet. Then consider how life would be without them. The potential for cyber-attacks is one potential threat; electromagnetic pulses (EMP) as part of hybrid warfare or solar flares are another. And there are many others.
  • Cultural influences: Apocalyptic and survival themes in media have also played a role in increasing interest in prepping. The television hits Leave the World Behind (Netflix) and The Last of Us (HBO) are two recent examples of this. Another case in point is the book Survival of the Richest, which, despite author Douglas Rushkoff’s less-than-flattering description of tech billionaires’ “mindset”, has been read by many in Silicon Valley organizations.

Key “prepping” considerations for executive protection companies

The society-wide rise in prepping underscores the necessity for executive protection companies to reassess and enhance their own preparedness strategies. In fact, these strategies must be three-fold because executive protection companies navigate three separate but interrelated challenges as they prepare for disaster (aka incidents, catastrophes, “the event”, “the big one”, etc.).

We take a brief look at some of the key issues for each of these strategies below, but will save a deeper dive into these topics for later blogs.

1. Executive protection companies must help their principals be prepared for disaster

At one level, this is a question of scope of work: if it’s in the budget, it happens; if it’s not in the budget, it usually doesn’t happen. For example, in California, where earthquakes and wildfires can be expected and are normally considered in threat analyses, resources (for things like contingency plans for dealing with such events, dedicated SOPs, equipment, training, etc.) are often included in requests for proposals and scopes of work. At least they should be.

What can be trickier are the less-expected disasters, the so-called “black swan” events. Typically, only the largest, most complex, and best-funded programs would include resources for low-probability/high-impact events such as EMPs.

2. Executive protection companies must make preparations to maintain their own operational/business continuity in the face of disaster

If EP companies are to help clients deal with emergency situations, they need to do quite a bit of preparation themselves.

Please note that the bullets below are included only to give a sense of what should be considered. Actual preparations should address at least the following points and more:

  • · Operational continuity planning
    • Comprehensive risk assessments
    • Continuity plans for key functional areas including HR, IT, finance, comms, etc.
    • Communication systems and equipment
    • Training and exercises
    • Financial resilience to cover increased operational costs during disasters
    • Making sure critical vendors have their own preparedness plans
  • Staff availability and well-being
    • Contingency plans for moving staff into disaster areas from outside
    • Family preparedness programs to reduce concern for family welfare if a family member is on the job and not home (see below)
  • Equipment and infrastructure
    • Redundancy of critical resources
    • Hardened facilities against various disaster scenarios
  • Ethical, legal, and compliance considerations
    • Understanding and adhering to legal obligations and standards for emergency response
    • Clear guidelines for prioritizing people, tasks, and resources during a crisis
    • Ensuring compliance with relevant legislation, client policies, etc.

3. EP companies must make preparations to enable their employees to come to work by helping them to prepare their own families to get by without them, if necessary, while they are on shift

If the doo-doo really hits the ventilator, what would you do, prioritize your family or your job? How do you motivate people to work if money no longer means much, if anything? How can we be sure anyone will show up for work if the survival of their family hangs in the balance?

These are hard questions whose answers all start with, “Well, it depends on the situation…”

And there are an endless number of possible situations.

Even the most ambitious EP company will find it practically impossible to think through all possible disaster scenarios and guarantee with 100% certainty that they will immediately get staff on the ground, with the principals, no matter what.

Does this mean we shouldn’t bother? No. In our experience, even a little preparedness is better than none, and “good enough” preparation can go a very long way in mitigating risk and dealing with crises when mitigation fails.

But what is good enough? We’ll leave that for a future blog, because this one is already long enough. For now, let’s suffice it to say that executive protection companies must do what they can to help their employees help themselves and their families if crunch time really starts biting, and that these preparations would include some of the same bullets we outline above for EP companies.

How can preppers help the unprepared?

The importance of preparedness is nothing new. Aesop wrote his famous fable about the ant and the grasshopper almost 3,000 years ago, and we assume many of our readers have been prepping for years. Still, as was made obvious yet again in Leave the World Behind, most folks – even smart, wealthy ones – don’t prepare for the unforeseen, but might find themselves forced to come knocking on the well-guarded doors of those that have squirrelled away stashes of food, water and meds.

Forward-thinking executive protection professionals will always be more like ants than grasshoppers – at least we hope so. But his blog isn’t about feeling smug, it’s about being prepared. We’d love to hear your comments and learn what you think about how we, as an industry, can become better prepared to help our clients, our companies, and our employees and their families when that asteroid finally does come calling.