On Being Proactive

The idea of proactive security stems from the recognition that early preemptive work, when no real danger is seen or felt can effectively prevent a potential crime from manifesting itself in the first place. Proactive security should not be confused with the much better understood field of reactive security, which springs into action out of the urgent necessity to counter a crime that has already begun. Lest it be thought that emergency reactive capabilities should not be at the ready if necessary; the idea of the proactive approach is not to replace reactive measures but to add another layer so that our last reactive emergency resort does not need to be our first and only resort. Why wait until you fall gravely ill and have to react with powerful antibiotics if you can proactively prevent the whole thing with a simple early vaccination?

Part of the difficulty with proactive security, as opposed to reactive security, is that reactive measures deal with actions and proactive measures deal with decisions. The only assumption that need be made is that human actions are predicated on decisions. There are surprisingly few exceptions to this rule – even seemingly random actions will, upon closer inspection, turn out to result from logical consequential decisions; quick or opportunistic as they might be. The unfortunate fact, however, is that humans are much more hardwired to detect, and act in response to, actions rather than decisions. A useful example of this can be found in the field of comic books. If we inspect a comic book, we can notice that each frame captures an action, and the flow of frames goes from one action to the next. What are left out of the frames are the subliminal parts between the frames – the parts where the decisions are being made. The biggest reason why these decision making frames are left out is because it is quite difficult, not to mention less visually stimulating, to depict decisions. This is a useful example because it very clearly illustrates just how interested our brains are in actions rather than in decisions. Actions are external, easy to understand, and interesting to look for; decisions are internal, nuanced, and difficult to detect.

Consider as a further analogy a ballistic missile launch. If we wait until the missile has already been launched towards us, the only effective measure we are left with is to launch a counter missile that might shoot down the approaching missile. But missile defense systems are incredibly expensive, very difficult or even dangerous to operate, and even a successful deployment might not be able to prevent some collateral damage. On the other hand, consider affecting the navigation system of the missile before it is even launched – shift it but an inch, and the missile might miss by a mile, or never get launched in the first place. Small, relatively simple and inexpensive measures, when applied at a sufficiently early time and place, can bring about much more favorable results.

Chronologically speaking, emergency countermeasures only come late in the game. The problem with this lateness is that it does not allow much room for choice or decision, which is ironically why many people tend to wait for it. When one is late, the path is clear and one is fully liberated to run forward without choice or confusion. Waiting until it is late, therefore, becomes a tool for those who are not motivated enough to act early. The drawback of this type of behavior is that acting late is also extremely costly and dangerous. The brave act of initiating when there are still other choices available is not only a sensible and responsible strategy, this strategy also gives security personnel the ability to exert influence, leverage, and most importantly – control. Proactive security is the only strategy that can take the initiative away from the hostile entity, and grant active early control of the situation to the security professional.

This mental shift requires not just early actions but a completely different stance in relation to potential crime; a stance that is not based on reacting to hostile initiative but of seizing and maintaining control over one’s security.

Attaining this control necessitates a certain level of knowledge about threats, risks, and hostile planning. It then continues with raising one’s consciousness to various early indicators and developing strategies to deal with them, which culminates in putting the newly acquired knowledge, raised consciousness, and developed strategies into action.

Protection Circle aims to help people notice and resist the natural urge to view security from the comic book perspective and wait until a hostile action has already started. It is meant to enable people to dig deeper, and look for causes rather than effects; to proactively prevent, rather than reactively respond.

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