At the Frontline: Executive protection expert W. Dennis Maez

Former Secret Service agent discusses protecting corporate executives and their families

Last month, the wife of an oil company executive in Houston was injured after she opened a package that turned out to be a pipe bomb. Authorities later determined that she was the intended target of the attack and not her husband.

The incident highlights the threats that executives and their families can face from external forces. Considering the ill will that the recession has generated towards the corporate world, experts say companies need to examine the security measures they have in place to protect their top executives.

According to W. Dennis Maez, president and principal consultant for Maez Security Consultants, protecting a company's top brass can also protect its bottom line, as incidents such as the kidnapping of an executive or their family can negatively influence business.

In this "At the Frontline," Maez, who has more than 20 years experience with the U.S. Secret Service and has helped protect two presidents, shares his insights on executive protection.

What are the steps companies need to take to ensure their executives' safety?

Contrary to what a lot of people think about executive protection, it is not just body guarding or putting a big burly guy next to someone and keeping the paparazzi away. Executive protection deals with advanced preparations, mitigating the risks and exposure of the individual you are charged to secure to make sure they are safe. That entails advanced preparation, whether you are talking about physical security around a residence to make sure intruders cannot get close to (the protected person) or technical security policies and procedures that would alleviate the possibility of a bomb even getting close to the person. Those are the things that are the difference between effective executive protection and just eyewash.

What needs to be done to ensure the safety of an executive's family?

A lot of times the executives are very, very well secured. So the way to get to an executive would be through his family, either his nuclear family, extended family or others he cares about. Consequently, you cannot have all sorts of elaborate protective measures for an executive and then just let the wife and children drive off in their personal vehicles and pretend that whatever threats my be directed towards your primary protectee do not filter down to their family. Again, you have to plan for mitigating measures and educate the family on basic protection philosophies such as taking different routes, not having the same routine and using different vehicles. A lot of it is intelligence driven. Intelligence is a very important part in protecting an individual, whether it is the president of the United States or the head of BP. You want to know who is angry and who is making threats, what kind or threats are being made and garner as much intelligence as you can.

What kinds of security measures need to be in place at an executive's home?

It depends on the threat level. One of the big problems is that sometimes you have an executive of a large corporation that is very low-key, very low profile and sometimes it is counter-productive to have a protective detail or drive around in a black (SUV) with blacked-out windows. Sometimes you can attract unwanted attention to your protectee. I think a lot of it has to do with the individual because there is not a one-size-fits-all (approach). For a very high-profile executive... all of the above (security strategies) may be appropriate including technical security measures such as cameras, access control, and physical security people, and setting up different levels of security to get into their offices and into their homes. It is driven by the individual's profile.

What kinds of challenges does travel present when it comes to executive protection?

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