Photo by Obi Onyeador
Lately Black Mountain Solutions (BMS) provided Security & Safety Advisory and Logistical & Operational support for a recently published documentary on Netflix; exploring the drug trade in Latin America. The scope of the task entailed a BMS Safety & Security Consultant to visit high-risk locations within Colombia with the production crew, whilst advising on any safety & security issues and ensuring any communication & emergency management protocols were being adhered to.
For BMS, these types of tasks have been frequent across the region including Colombia & Brazil.
As in most industries there can be a wide spectrum of professions, and it would be prudent to suggest that within the security industry, a Physical Security Consultant (for example) could be an expert in information technology or cyber security. Therefore, when BMS provides a consultant for a media team security type task, we endeavour to deploy a consultant with both expertise and soft skills to suit the particular task in question.
How do we select Safety & Security Advisors in Colombia to support these types of tasks?
When selecting an advisor to support such tasks, Black Mountain see’s it paramount that the advisor:
Understands the local Culture & Customs
Often these types of tasks involve engaging with stakeholders with different beliefs or traditions than our own or what one may be accustomed to. Knowing what’s accepted and what’s not in the local areas is key. In some cases by not portraying an understanding of the local customs can be seen as a lack of respect and risk irritating the locals.
Speaks the local language
We can all see the importance of good communication skills on the ground. Not only from a logistical perspective such as simply asking the whereabouts of a nearest supermarket, but also for operational reasons, avoiding confrontation, applying conflict avoidance skills with potential threat actors or coordinating with local emergency services, Police, Military in the event of an incident or emergency.
From experience, nor an online language course or university program is sufficient training to manage incidents in a foreign language. Practicing a language in the comfort of a classroom may appear straightforward however communicating with locals in different accents, whilst under duress and faced in a potential hostile situation can make life extremely difficult. Only years of being immersed with the local population and working environment can hone those skills.
Bears prior experience working in Colombia and/or other countries within Latin America (LATAM)
The advisor must understand that the security situation in LATAM is different (in most cases) to other regions across the globe. This would of course also depend on many factors such as the clients profile etc. Whereas for example, the prominent threat for an international traveler to Iraq (as a stakeholder in an international coalition project) may be complexed attacks with the use of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) or roadside bombs, and that in Iraq & Africa armored vehicles and private security details is the normal security approach, however in Colombia in most situations this security approach does not apply.
In Colombia and other parts of Latin America, the common International traveler may only be a target for opportunistic crime. In which case the Iraq security approach of convoy drills, support vehicles, etc may only draw unnecessary attention. Obviously as mentioned earlier, this would depend on many factors as in all cases, client profile, agenda & risk appetite will dictate the most suitable security approach and risk mitigation methods. From our experience across the board in Latin America, low profile is usually the best approach.
Can work under stress
Conducting table-top exercises is an essential component to ensure staff are well rehearsed with Emergency Response Procedures however when effectuated in an austere environment with the probability and risk of an undesired outcome can often make the situation more stressful. The ideal consultant in these dynamic situations can step back, take a deep breath, think logically and assess the outcomes before making any rational decisions.
Fits in with the Media Crew
As mentioned previously, interaction with persons of interest with these types of assignments is frequent. Actors or stakeholders being interviewed or filmed, often due to their business, can feel uncomfortable with the presence of local authorities. By not appearing like the ex Police/Military stereotype and blending in with the production crew but whilst dynamically assessing risk can avoid unnecessary uncomfortable situations. Even supporting the crew and acting as a cameraman and dressing in the same attire can significantly reduce the chance of any unnecessary attention. It’s all about performing your job effectively whilst maintaining a low profile and being aware of the surroundings.
Being flexible and able to adapt
Getting along with media crew team members and working as part of a team is essential. At times these tasks can be lengthy and working long hours in remote and austere conditions is inevitable.
Often working in some parts of Latin America things don’t always go to plan as expected. Whether that be locals on the ground changing plans, cancellations, no shows, drivers or even 3rd parties arriving late a consultant must understand that sometimes these eventualities are part of the culture and can be unavoidable despite all efforts to reduce them.
How can Black Mountain Solutions support a Media Production company?
To date, BMS has provided the following services for media teams working in Latin America:
As with all Hostile Environment Media tasks, a detailed Pre-Deployment Risk Assessment should be conducted to identify any safety and security concerns with a robust security plan put in place that includes communications & reporting protocols and emergency response procedures. The plan should be rehearsed ensuring all stakeholders are familiar and competent.
It is recommended that a Black Mountain Solutions Safety & Security consultant deployed with the media team to ensure the security & safety plan is adhered to, and to conduct dynamic risk assessments advising on the current situation and best practices.
To date we have supported media crews in the following areas:
BMS can support with:
- Risk Assessments
- Medical & Emergency Response Services
- Hostile Environment & Awareness Training (HEAT)
- Security Advisory & Consultancy
- Operational & Logistical support
Contact: [email protected] for more information