The acquisition will allow the New York-based company to continue to grow its New Jersey footprint.
It is not a part of the limousine business that is readily apparent. In fact, it may by only one line in one ad in a major metropolitan Yellow Pages heading under Limousines "Security Available."
In a world of rising random violence and increasing incidents of terrorism, the concept of paid protection is one that celebrities and corporate executives — a primary consumer group for limousine services — are apt to consider as a logical option. For those with very high media profiles, the consideration of security is by no means paranoia, it is just good sense.
Executive Security International Ltd , based in Aspen, Colorado, is in the business of training people in the art of executive protection. An important course for those enrolling in the program is that involving escape and evasive driving, where safe driving tips are taught along with certain measures to take for added security and moves that can be made with an automobile when a threatening situation arises. Prospective bodyguards take the course so they can double as chauffeurs and chauffeurs take the course to improve existing driving skills.
The driving portion of the school's curriculum is taught by Wally Dallenbach, a retired auto racer who won the California 500 in 1973 and currently serves as chief steward for Championship Auto Racing Teams. In this position, Dallenbach acts as the chief "referee" for all Indy car laces except for the Indianapolis 500.
According to Steve Bigelow, vice president and one of the company's owners, there is a big difference between the executive protection ESI teaches and the image of the bodyguard that exists in the public's mind. Most people, he said, picture a bodyguard as "the 280-pound gorilla with the mirror sunglasses standing in a suit with his arms folded who is usually an embarrassment to his client."
The ESI ideal, said Bigelow, is someone who handles himself well enough not to be noticed, prevents trouble from arising, and, if trouble does occur, handles it in a low-profile manner whenever possible.
"Our thrust is to take an individual who has a lot of class and integrity to begin with and teach them the appropriate skills to do high-level executive protection work," said Bigelow. Other classes, besides the driving course, include hand-to-hand combat, basic and tactical combat shooting, demolition search and identification, crash injury management and electronic security.
"There is a real good growing need for personal protection, especially in the combination of chauffeur-bodyguard," Bigelow said."There are a lot of psychotics running around thinking they can, more or less, usurp somebody's fame simply by shooting them."
About half of the three-year-old school's applicants are already security professionals, such as policemen, government agents or private security personnel, said Bigelow. About one-fourth are people interested in ways of defending themselves. These would include corporate executives and celebrities.
Topics covered in Dallenbach's driving course include left-foot braking, 10-2 steering, K-turns, finding the racing line in a curve, S-curves, backing up at high speeds, 180s and ambush strategy.
A 180-degree turn, where a car reverses direction in the quickest way possible, can be done in a limousine, said Dallenbach "You need more room, obviously. But the center of gravity in a limousine is no different than the center of gravity in a sedan. In fact, the reverse 180s can be done a lot easier than in the sedans because of the long wheel-base."
Dallenbach explained that most of the students he teaches have very basic driving skills when they arrive and could definitely use some tips on safe driving techniques, even before some of the more intricate moves are taught.
For example, Dallenbach said, "10-2 steering (where the hands are in the 10 o'clock and 2 o'clock positions on the steering wheel) is something everybody should do. First of all, subconsciously, if you can see your hands as you look through the windshield, you know where they are in a stress situation. Second of all, that's the best leverage position for anything you might do."
Probably the most important tip for safe driving, said Dallenbach, is to always be looking for immediate alternatives should an emergency occur. "Always leave yourself an out," said Dallenbach "Never box yourself in."
In other words, drive far enough behind the car ahead to stop if that car's brakes suddenly slam on, or be aware of what's on the right and left sides so that an alternative route might be taken to avoid a collision.
"The eye movement is something that we work on. Speed takes peripheral vision and turns it into tunnel vision. Therefore, at speeds in excess of 50 or 60 mph, you are in a tunnel vision situation looking at what's in front of you and losing concentration in the areas to the left and right. You have to almost program yourself to look to the left and right.
"And always keep your eyes moving one of our bottom lines is to get the big picture you're responsible for everything in sight," said Dallenbach.
By maintaining "the big picture," the chauffeur is also more aware of the possibility that another car might be following him. "It's a feeling," said Dallenbach. "It's another sense that has to be developed. Part of the programming is to pay attention to what's behind you by virtue of your mirrors If that scene states to be repetitious to you, then that's a highly suspicious situation."
A security-conscious chauffeur who drives someone on a regular route should consider the possibility of varying that route, said Dallenbach, so the client's travel routine cannot necessarily be predicted at any given moment. Also, the chauffeur should become knowledgeable of the territory that he drives regularly.
"You have to learn every nook and cranny of that particular environment," Dallenbach said. "Then, if anybody threatens you on your home territory, you have the advantage by virtue of having learned your territory and your ability to take advantage of all corners, places to turn around or potential bottlenecks."
If a chauffeur feels the car is being followed, Dallenbach said. "He should alert the client that this is happening either if he is fast approaching a high-risk area or if he's approaching their destination. At the same time, he should have an option in mind with which to comfort the client by saying 'I have an escape route.' You never alert the client without an answer."
Bad-weather driving is also covered in Dallenbach's course. “We explain it in the classroom where we have some rules of thumb three-quarter speed for rain and half-speed for snow We explain that in depth.”
Another thing is to know your vehicle and the safe operating condition of that vehicle said Dallenbach, who also teaches driving to law enforcement agencies. "Treat your vehicle as if it were your handgun. You wouldn't take your handgun and depend on it in that once-in-a-lifetime situation unless you know that it's loaded, the barrel is clean and on and on. Well, you use your automobile a lot mote often than you would a handgun.
"There may be the condition where you could say that a garage takes care of all the maintenance. But if you have to depend on that vehicle under a stress situation it's comforting to know, and very professional to know, that all the cars facilities are working adequately."
An important focus of ESI's program is physical training, as well as discussions of mental attitude .We stress, when we talk about the individual, that he's got to clear the air in a lot of categories when he's on the job," said Dallenbach. "He's got to be mentally alert. He's got to have desire."
Bigelow explained, "Physical training is one thing that we really emphasize because we feel that if someone is to be effective as a personal protection agent, he has to have a clear head and needs to be in good enough shape so he can handle whatever physical confrontations may come along."
The four-day driving course costs $ I 450, said Bigelow, adding, "We do have a lot of chauffeurs who don't go through the rest of the courses, but do just the driving course."
A limousine service that offers executive protection with a certified staff is simply expanding its potential market by making a specialized service available to those clients who may need it, he said.
ESI's facilities include a mile-and-a-quarter two-lane road track, a practical handgun and small arms shooting range, an indoor projected-image shooting gallery, and a fully-equipped athletic club.
It was founded by Bob Duggan, a fourth degree black belt in Hwa Rang Do and president of the Aspen Academy of Martial Arts.
The acquisition will allow the New York-based company to continue to grow its New Jersey footprint.
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