Murphy Has a Say: Expect the Unexpected

When it comes to protective services, like the Secret Service, the professionals are renowned for their skills, training, and experience in keeping their VIPs (protectees) safe from harm. The objective of any well-trained protective detail is to move their protectee from one location to another without incident.

What it takes to complete a successful movement involves everything from protective intelligence to logistics to planning and everything in between. Any effective security-based plan of action and movement worth its salt must include a contingency plan for Murphy’s Law.

Steve Tarani Protective Agent
Skills, training, and experience are vital aspects to self-defense, asset protection, and the protection of VIPs. (Photo:

Murphy’s law states that anything that can go wrong will go wrong, and at the worst possible time. To compensate for this potential eventuality, it is recommended to consider a realistic range of likely response options.

Known and Unknown Variables

Experienced protection services personnel know to expect both known and unknown variables when running a protective movement. Known and unknown variables can be best illustrated by the example of your driving with your protectee(s) which could be your spouse, the kids, or other family members.

Given good forethought and planning, you can be ahead of the action-reaction power curve in the event of an unexpected or emergency situation. For example, you keep a spare tire in case you have one tire blow out and you may even have an active AAA membership or equivalent roadside service contract. 

Known variables may include a car tire issue which can be managed by changing out the problem tire with the spare, or calling your active roadside service if it may be the battery or some other engine problem.

man changing a tire at night on side of a highway
Thinking ahead and a bit of preparation can eliminate much of the inherent risks of moving through unfamiliar territory and put you ahead of the action-reaction curve. (Photo: Flickr)

‘Unknown variables’ is a politically correct term used to describe the effects of Murphy’s Law. Unknown variables may include unscheduled or unannounced road construction, potholes, detours, power outages, inclement weather, and the like.

Changes in road conditions may cause you to take an alternate route which may be readily calculated by your online mobile phone travel app. However, condition changes such as inclement weather might require snow or ice gear (chains for the tires and an ice scraper for the windshield) in extreme conditions. Even the probability of getting caught in a rainstorm would require keeping yourself and your protectees warm and dry with rain jackets or windbreakers and umbrellas for example.

A well-prepared ground transportation protective movement doesn’t always mean that protection is in place only in preparation for physical attacks on your protectee(s), but also for unknown variables such as changing environmental conditions.

Consider having an emergency kit complete with a spare tire, a roadside services contract, snow chains, an ice scraper, an umbrella, and rain gear on board. It’s not a bad idea to have a medical kit available, as well. If you compare a driver who is prepared with that gear to another driver traveling in their car with none of the above, which of the two drivers is best prepared for both known and unknown variables?

AAA Roadside service
Our surroundings can change in a matter of seconds. It’s just as important to prepare for the things that you can’t control, as it is to prepare for those that you can. (Photo: AAA Exchange)

Emergency Action Plan — Forewarned is Forearmed

The consummate protection professional plans for Murphy. A typical protective movement requires the arrival of the team (protective services detail aka PSD) at a physical location to pick up the protectee(s). Forewarned is forearmed, so long before the PSD arrives, the team has already done their due diligence in checking on the travel route, running an advance (having checked on the destination), and everything in between such as up-to-the-minute weather, local area news, and other travel-related information to ensure the safety and well-being of their protectee(s) (aka “the package”).

Part of the PSD preparation includes an emergency action plan (EAP) specifically designed for Murphy’s Law. It includes coverage of such unknown variables as a physical threat to the package, change in travel time, change of pickup or drop-off location, change in travel route, reports of civil unrest, criminal activity, or change in weather conditions.

The plan would also include the identification of hard rooms and rally points—designated safe space (defendable) physical locations at either the pickup or drop-off locations conducive to optimal package protection.

After gathering as much protective intelligence as possible and with a rock-solid EAP in place, the PSD arrives to pick up the package and safely deliver them to their destination.

Plan for Home Defense

Looking at Murphy’s law applied closer to home, there are folks out there who never consider the possibility of a home invasion. The ones who do consider the possibility of a home invasion prepare for the similar known and unknown variables as contemplated by PSD professionals.

The defense-minded homeowner prepares for known variables by having installed common physical security devices such as quality locks on exterior doors and windows, alarms, cameras, motion sensor lighting, and the like. Operationally, they are careful to close their garage door and check the exterior door locks are engaged before going to bed at night.

They may even have an EAP in place for their family so that if something happens (unknown variable) such as someone or multiple persons breaking into their home in the middle of the night when everyone is asleep, family members know to fall back to a defendable safe room in the house. Such a plan ensures that everyone is accounted for and in a safe area where there may be additional defense options in place such as reinforced locked doors and/ or weapons with responsible and trained weapon owners.

Consider the responsible homeowner with both physical security and operational security (well-thought-out procedures and planning) in place compared to the guy next door with none of the above. Which of the two is the softer target, more attractive to predators, and least prepared for Murphy?

School Security

Murphy’s law knows no boundaries and can reach into the safety of our kids in school. Unknown variables remain a legitimate child safety concern as a very real threat to the learning environment regardless of location and socio-economic conditions, both in terms of human trafficking, illicit drugs, school shootings, and more.

Some schools have very high-grade physical security in defense against known variables such as access control devices like gates, bollards, barricades, secured parking structures, and the like. Such campuses have installed cameras, locked exterior and interior doors and windows, and security personnel. Additionally, they are prepared for unknown variables with viable EAPs exercised by trained administrators, teachers, and other staff. They have threat assessment training and other procedures in place to ensure operational integrity and the overall safety of everyone on campus.

Compare that school to the one that has none of the above in place. Which of the two is the softer target, more attractive to predators, and least prepared for Murphy?

At the Workplace

Murphy’s law also reaches into the workplace environment. Workplace violence is as much a security consideration these days as school safety. In fact, according to statistics, you have greater odds of being involved in an undesired incident in a commercial workspace than kids do in a school.

Workplace violence is prolific at various levels ranging from subtle micro-aggressions to actionable physical violence. The organizations that are prepared for and have violence prevention policies and procedures in place are far better prepared for both known and unknown variables than those that do not.

Examples of preparation for known variables might include a well-protected corporate campus replete with access control points, security cameras, monitors, security personnel, and the like. Operational considerations such as well-throughout-out human resources company policy, procedure, and contingency planning may be in place for the unknown variables.

Personnel trained in violence prevention and critical incident management are an organization’s best defense against both known and unknown variables, placing them ahead of a potential threat and readily able to manage the emergence of a potential threat.

security officer in foreground, london skyline in background
Eyes and ears are the best defense against known and unknown threats and variables. See something? Say something. (Photo: pxfuel)

Compare that organization to the one that has none of the above in place. Which of the two is the softer target, more conducive to an undesired incident, and least prepared for Murphy?

The consummate professional certainly hopes for the very best but prepares for the unknown as the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry when Murphy has a say.

Steve Tarani is a former fulltime CIA protective programs employee, small arms and defensive tactics subject matter expert who served on POTUS 45 pre-election executive protection detail. He is the lead instructor for NRA’s non-ballistic weapons training program offered nationally. Tarani is also a DoD and FLETC-certified federal firearms instructor who has been on staff at Gunsite Academy (AZ) as a Rangemaster for over twenty years. Formerly sworn, he is also a former federal contractor and service provider for the US Defense Intelligence Community, US Naval Special Operations Command and other government agencies. Tarani additionally serves on the National Sheriffs’ Association Committee for School Safety and Security.

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