Episode 151 – 2 Attacks That Have Changed the Way We Work and Train

Hi everyone and welcome to episode 151 of the EPST podcast, I’m your host Larry Snow.

The topic of today’s episode is 2 Attacks that have changed the way we work and train.

In the first edition, which the ISDA created back in 2014, is a description of the attacks that have changed the way we work and train. In the downloadable eBook, available for ISDA members, we covered the assassination of Aldo Moro, Hans Martin Schleyer, John Butler, and Alfred Herrhausen. 2020 brought us two events that have changed the way we work and conduct training.  


Those two events are the:

  • Covid-19 Pandemic and
  • Omar García Harfuch (OGH) Ambush

Changes from the Omar García Harfuch (OGH) Ambush

The OGH ambush was the 1st vehicle ambush where a forensic analysis and scenario testing could measure the effects of Electronic Stability Control “ESC” and “Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems (ADAS) on the outcome of an ambush.  

A significant addition to the forensic analysis and testing came from the available information due to the surveillance cameras in the area of the OGH ambush and the amount of video that was available to the public. The OGH ambush is one of the first vehicle attacks that was videoed as it was happening

The other significant contribution was the information and the accuracy that come from the advancements in Google Maps. The combination of the surveillance videos, Google Maps, and Google Street view created an overwhelming amount of accurate data.  

A quick explanation of the use of forensic science and engineering principles to determine the cause of a vehicle ambush. The analysis is used to identify the problem that causes an event. We measure maximum speed, the path the vehicle takes, vehicle performance, sight distance, and come up with the cause of the event followed by lessons learned.

From the forensic analysis, we developed a hypothesis from which we created data points. Data is collected and analyzed.

From the data collected, the Vehicle Dynamics Institute team conducted tests to determine the accuracy of the data – and from that data, we develop lessons learned, operational suggestions and follow it up with training points.

While testing the hypothesis of these data points, ISDA and the Vehicle Dynamics Institute team produced information concerning operational procedures – training and personal safety and security that were of significant importance.  We feel we had to share some of the information with the community.

Electronic Stability Control (ESC)

At one time, when bad things happened, it was all up to the driver to control the executive vehicle. The person holding on to the steering wheel made all the decisions. The driver was the algorithm that determined the outcome of the event. Now computers control executive vehicles, and in an emergency scenario, accident, or vehicle violence, executive vehicles rely on the computer algorithm to control the vehicle. 

The OGH Suburban was equipped with ESC – our test indicated that due to the ambush design, the driver could not have moved the vehicle either to the left or to the right. There were buildings and cars on the right, and on the left, there was a curb and trees. If the driver attempted to jump the curb, the ESC and other Advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) would have prevented him from doing so.

We need to examine the challenges that vehicles equipped with ESC (as most Executive Vehicles have ESC these days) create for protective driver training and security drivers. It should go without saying, but students must be trained in vehicles that are equipped with ESC.

When conducting protective driver training, there is a crucial time in the ESC computer algorithm where the computer will take control of the vehicle; this transition is called the switch point and must be monitored and coached by training providers. 

Driving exercises and scenarios need to be created; students need to be coached and tested on controlling the switch point. The change of human to a computer must be monitored, coached, and have exercises designed to create the change. 

If you purchase protective driver training, we would suggest asking the training provider if they are using training vehicles equipped with Electronic Stability Control (ESC). If they are not using ESC vehicles in our humble opinion it is negative training.

Braking Methodology

Our forensic analysis determined that the OGH’s driver had sufficient time to stop the vehicle if the driver used the traditional method of braking an ABS vehicle, which means  pressing the  brake pedal as hard as possible and let the ABS computer do what it is designed to do – stop the vehicle with the ability for the driver to maintain steering control.  

When we use threshold braking with a trained threshold braking driver, it took 70% longer to stop the vehicle. 

If OGH’s driver attempted to threshold brake with an ABS-equipped vehicle, our analysis and testing showed the outcome would have been considerably different. Instead of stopping before they got to the truck that was blocking the road, they would have gone under the truck blocking the road. 

The following can’t be stressed enough. 

As a potential student or purchaser of protective driving training, we suggest you ensure that you or your employee is not attending a program that instructs students to threshold brake with an ABS vehicle. 


Our forensic analysis indicated that the driver attempted to back out of the Kill Zone.

Vehicle Dynamics Institute team found that a two-second delay was caused due to the vehicle’s ADAS Transmission Control Module (TCM) system. If the driver does not follow the proper sequence before reversing, tests indicated that there could be as much as a 2 to 2 1/2 seconds delay before the car moves in reverse. Which means that the driver would sit in the kill zone for up to 2 1/2 seconds before having the ability to back out.

TCM definition – A transmission control module is an electronic mechanism that collects data and processes signals within your transmission to regulate the transmission’s gear shifting. 

Also, once the vehicle does back out, most executive vehicles have reverse control devices that limit the speed that the vehicle can back up. 


Training providers need to determine if the student’s operational vehicle has a Transmission Control Module. If they do, they need to discuss the effects of the TCM on reversing.

Those who train students working in a high-risk environment need to examine the reversing characteristics of the operational vehicles the student will be driving and the environment that they will be driving in.

Security drivers need to know the characteristics of the vehicle while driving in reverse.

Keep in mind that all new vehicles have speed limiters, preventing the vehicle from reversing quickly. 


The Omar García Harfuch Suburban photo riddled with gunshots and sitting on four flat tires received a substantial amount of social media attention and criticism. 

The ISDA and the Vehicle Dynamics Institute team devoted a considerable amount analysis and test time to examine the vehicle dynamic characteristics of an armored B6 Suburban with four flat tires equipped with run-flats and reversing out of the kill zone.

To say that the testing was exciting would be an understatement. The complete data will be available in the final forensic report. 

Our research in testing indicated that backing up with a vehicle with runflats creates a vehicle characteristic that needs to be addressed and trained.

If an operational vehicle is equipped with run-flat tires, training programs need to consider an exercise, specifically a backing up exercise with one or more of the tires flat. We suggest caution when doing so.

We found that it does not take much speed or steering wheel angle or steering wheel movement to put the car in an uncontrollable situation.

Night Driving

We address the issue of night driving and in last week’s podcast episode. If you have not done so, yet we suggest that you listen to the episode by going to https://securitydriver.com/09/episode-150-low-light-driving-conditions/


Changes from COVID – 19

It is the ISDA’s opinion that COVID-19 has permanently changed the Secure Transportation profession. The security driver and the provider of secure transportation services will need to change how business is done.

Whatever your feelings are concerning the COVID-19 pandemic, you cannot dismiss that the market has been affected by it. In some parts of the globe secure transportation and security driving was shut down and still is shut down. 

Things to think about

The vehicle itself is now a threat to the safety of the principal.  

Those responsible for protecting their principal will need to raise the level of due diligence concerning the principal’s driver and the vehicle they are driving in.

Anyone who rents a vehicle or uses a rideshare program needs caution; there are profound health implications. A recent study found that these vehicles are so bacteria-laden that normal driver actions such as rolling down windows, buckling seatbelts, and grasping door handles and steering wheels is a health hazard. We have a link to this article in the notes for this episode.

If you know anyone who is renting vehicles, you can tell then they are entering a vehicle that has more germs than a toilet seat – that’s a pleasant thought. 


There needs to be proof of documentation – when was the vehicle disinfected, what material was used to disinfect, and was the driver recently tested for COVID-19. 

Training: If you attended or are sending company personnel to a training program, ensure that the training provider has a COVID-19 Plan. For an example ISDA Member Joe Autera has an article on tools for training in the COVID age.

From VDI – The Tools for Training in the “COVID Age”


The vehicle’s medical equipment needs to be expanded to include equipment specifically to deal with COVID. Article from ISDA member Carlton Smith

COVID-19 and the Executive Protection/Secure Transportation Profession – Carlton D Smith


Lastly, we suggest you subscribe to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) Newsletter – Behind the Wheel at Work

Additional Material on Secure Transportation and The Risks of COVID-19

Our Survey Results – Episode 146 – COVID-19 Survey Results

If you’ve enjoyed this EPST podcast episode, we invite you to check out the International Security Driver Association.  The ISDA is a valuable resource for all practitioners working in the protection profession. We offer benchmark educational, networking, and marketing programs. Access to the encyclopedia of executive protection and secure transportation – The ISDA knowledge center. The knowledge shared encompasses a wide range of EP and ST focused topics with resources, information, and metrics.

For more information on all of the member benefits head over to https://isdacenter.org.

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