David Rubens – What BMW and LOCOG Need to Know: The Ultimate Guide to the Perfect Pick-Up

David Rubens, Managing Director of  David Rubens Associates
David Rubens, Managing Director of David Rubens Associates

David Rubens, Managing Director of  security consultancy firm David Rubens Associates writes his first of a new series of articles exclusively for Infologue.com. David writes: “As someone who has been involved in the practical side of personal protection for many years, and who has run executive protection operations across the world, one of the most interesting features of the London Olympics is the fact that BMW has supplied LOCOG with four thousand vehicles for the use of various VVIP’s in the Olympic Family, including administrators, guests and sponsors.  Although many aspects of the security management of the London Olympics are based around ‘fluffy logic’ dealing with highly variable situations, managing the daily routines of four thousand cars is, in theory at least, a lot more controllable, based as it is on a high level of planning, management skills and, above all, operational discipline from everyone involved in the programme.

“Looking at it purely from an operation management perspective, there are three distinct stages to the project:

Stage 1: Liaising with all potential clients, gathering information about all of the trips that will need to be made, and ensuring that that information is stored in an easily accessible format

Stage2: Creating an Operation Management system that will allow all of the various teams involved in the operation – Ops Managers, drivers, vehicle maintenance teams, finance department, IT department, security planners, venue liaison teams, LOCOG liaison team, etc – to work as a single cohesive unit

Stage 3: To manage the tens of thousands of journeys that will take place each day over the course of the Olympics and Paralympics.

“The scale of the operation can be gauged by a simple calculation. Let us presume that each car will make four journeys a day: a pick-up in the morning for travel from a hotel to a venue, then the return journey in the evening from the venue back to the hotel / drop-off point. Then in the evening there will be another pick-up and travel to a venue, where the Principal (to use the CP term) will be dropped off, and then the final pick-up at the end of the evening’s activities and the return to the hotel / drop-off point, at which point the drivers working day will be over. (Obviously, once they have completed the final drop-off they will need to get ready for the following day -refuel, re-stock the water, newspapers and any other items that may be needed in the car, clean the car inside and out (imagine what it will look like after a day’s travelling around London!), confirm instructions for the following day, check maps and routes and ensure that the vehicle is parked securely.

“The secret to any Journey Management programme, even one involving only one or two vehicles, is to have a system that ensures that the operation controllers know exactly where the vehicles are, that they receive confirmation of the successful conclusion of each stage of the operation, and that at no time does the Principal ever have to phone up to say ‘Where the hell is my car’.

“On this basis, each journey should have the minimum of the following messages:

Message 1. Driver to Control, confirming they are on the way, and ETA (Estimated Time of Arrival) at Pick-Up Point (PUP). This message is to allow the Control to know that everything is in order, and they don’t have to worry that the Principal is going to be left waiting. In the event that there has been a delay for any reason (and if there is, it is something that should be subject to a review afterwards, as being late is a cardinal sin in any security operation), then the Control can pro-actively contact the Principal, apologise, inform them of the delay and give them the new ETA. Arrival at the PUP should be in plenty of time before the Pick-Up itself – given the potential traffic disruption and general confusion around central London, I would imagine that there would be the rule that all vehicles are at least in the vicinity of the location one hour before pick-up.

Message2. Control to Principal, confirming their location, and the time of Pick-Up. (The Principal will also want to be reassured that everything is under control. They will not want to come out of the hotel not knowing if the car is going to be there or not).

Message 3. Driver to Control, confirming ‘At Pick-Up Point’

Message 4. Driver to Control, confirming ‘Principal in Vehicle’

Message 5. Driver to Control, confirming ‘ETA at Drop-Off Point (DOP)’. (Made when they are in final approach to DOP)

Message 6. Driver to Control, confirming ‘Principal at Location, Drop-Off Complete’.

“This is the absolute minimum number of messages that would allow the Control Centre to keep track of the thousands of vehicles and their operations, and to be aware of any potential delay in any of their journeys. This is of course presuming that everything goes well, there are no problems, all of the drivers find the Pick-Up Points as required and the Principals are where they need to be at the time that they need to be, the approach to the Drop-Off Point goes smoothly and the person who is meant to be meeting the VVIP to take them into the venue will be there.

“So, given that we have four thousand vehicle making four journeys a day, and each journey requires a minimum of six messages, that means that there will be a minimum of ninety-six thousand messages a day needing to be made and logged – and that is before a single thing goes wrong.

“The key to managing an operation of that scale is to ensure that the vast majority of messages come through automatically, all information is given clearly and concisely, and they are received, confirmed and logged in as routine manner as possible.  It should therefore be clear when a message is not received, because the system will flag it up and it can be passed on to the next desk for the operators there to contact the driver and confirm that everything is in order. This requires a high-level of discipline from the drivers. I know from long and bitter experience how difficult it is to get a single driver to send a text message ‘On way to PUP, eta 30’ three days in a row. If the four thousand drivers are professional and disciplined enough to send those ninety-six thousand messages on time and as required, then it will be possible to concentrate on those journeys that have some sort of problem (and there will be no shortage of those, I can guarantee). However, given that all of the drivers have been recruited from Olympic volunteers, have no experience in making pick-ups, drop-offs or using a radio, and have had a single half-day’s training to prepare them for their roles – it is highly likely that there will be hundreds of missed messages, confused messages or wrong messages, and it can very quickly become, to use the current phrase, an omni-shambles.

“It is not unreasonable to presume that, even if everything goes well, out of the four thousand vehicles that need to be tracked and monitored, ten per cent, that is four hundred, will have some sort of issue that will not be able to be handled in the simple six message format. The likelihood is that the problem will involve the driver being delayed on the way to the Pick-Up Point, the driver and Principal being delayed on the way to the Drop-Off Point, or the driver being at the Pick-Up Point but not finding the Principal. Rather than taking up time and attention of the first-contact operators, that will then need to be handed over to a separate section, whose operators will have more time to talk to the drivers, understand the problem and if necessary make contact with the Principal or the liaison people at the venue they are going to, and in general ensure that there is a smooth transfer of information through the system.

“However, it is also likely that within those four hundred vehicles there will be a further ten per cent, i.e. forty cars, that will require an even higher level of management. This might be because the Principal is feeling unwell, they have had a heart attack, the vehicle has been involved in a road traffic accident, there has been a puncture or mechanical breakdown requiring a change of vehicles, the driver is feeling unwell (Imagine the stress levels that they will be going through….), the Principal has been mugged, or any other similar situation which would then need a high-level of intervention and liaison with LOCOG and outside agencies (ambulance, hospitals, police, hotels, embassies, etc). These high-level incidents would immediately be passed onto the third section, where a designated person would take personal responsibility of the incident, and ensure that the appropriate level of management and support is provided.

Three Stage Management

Fig 1:      Three Stage Management System

“However, in order to successfully manage those four thousand vehicles, sixteen thousand journeys, thirty-two thousand Pick-Up and Drop-Offs, and ninety-six thousand messages (presuming that nothing goes wrong) every single day, it is first of all necessary to know exactly where each Principal is going to, when they need to be picked up and from where, and where they need to be dropped off. This involved the interaction of two already inherently complex management systems – firstly, coordinating with the service users (the demand side), so that it can be known what needs to be provided, and then, on the supply side, ensuring that each person is booked in for the correct journey to be delivered to the correct location on each day (and if you have ever experienced a simple pick-up at an airport, you will know how easy it is for that to go wrong). On the demand side, the potential client organisations include 205 National Olympic Committees, 46 Global Sponsors, 33 IOC Sports Federations, 167 International Paralympics National Committees and 150 Embassies. That alone makes 600 separate organisations that will have their own requirements from the journey management system.

“On the supply side, it will be necessary to ensure that records are kept for the fifty separate venues that will be used during the Olympics, creating 470 separate event days that need to be logged and catered for.

Daily activities at the 50 Olympic Venues

Fig 2:      Daily activities at the 50 Olympic Venues

“In order to achieve this, there will need to be a high level of coordination between the various components of the operation, including the team taking the bookings from the clients, the team booking the drivers in, the drivers themselves, the venues (who will have to arrange the drop-offs, and meet the various VVIP’s), the administration teams (that is a lot of paper work to keep hold of!), LOCOG, the journey controllers and finally the central Command and Control centre. However (as shown below), each of those individual components will also have to be in communication with all of the other components of the operation – and the information that they will be basing their decisions on will be changing all of the time on an on-going basis.

A simple representation of the communication system required to maintain an effective flow of journey management information

Fig 3:      A simple representation of the communication system required to maintain an effective flow of journey management information

“However, as well as the journey management operation itself, it also necessary to have a system in place to manage the overall operation. Who is going to keep a record of the driver’s hours? Who is going to pay for the daily refuelling? Who is going to ensure maintenance of 4,000 vehicles over six weeks? I have given one example of a possible project management framework below, based on the system used by COBR, the UK Cabinet Office Crisis Management system (COBR stands for Cabinet Office Briefing Room, and is pronounced COBRA). The purpose of such a system is two-fold – firstly, by having Gold Commanders of each organisation around the same table at the same time, real-time information can be given by people with an expert understanding of the capabilities of each organisation and secondly, commands and instructions can be cascaded down through the system speedily and effectively.

“This system will allow the heads of each department to work closely together, able to react swiftly to any situation that might occur (and the likelihood is that unexpected problems will start happening from the very first moment that the operation kicks off – if not before then!).

One possible framework for the overall Project Management programme

Fig 4:      One possible framework for the overall Project Management programme

“Given the criticality of the journey management programme to the quality of the overall Olympic impression likely to be experienced by each and every one of the VVIP’s, it is highly likely that any breakdown in any aspect of the programme will have an immediate impact on the general mood of the Games themselves. In many ways, the ability of LOCOG to manage the transport of its VVIP guests will be a true reflection on the level of skills, professionalism and capabilities of the event managers in general.

“Although the rest of the Olympics security and general project management operation can claim that they are always potential victims of Unknown Unknowns, in the area of journey management it will come down to a simple matter of operational management capability.

“As someone who has been there and done that, and knows the time, effort and frustrations involved in running even the smallest of journey management programmes  – Good luck, from the bottom of my heart!!”

David Rubens has been involved in UK security consultancy for twenty years. He holds an MSc in Security and Risk Management (Leicester University), and is a Visiting Lecturer and Dissertation Supervisor on their Security, Terrorism and Policing MSc programme. He  was a Visiting Fellow at the Security and Resilience Department, Cranfield University, UK Defence Academy (2009-’10), and a Visiting Lecturer on their  Strategic Leadership programme, focusing on terrorism & public policy and the management of large-scale, multi-agency operations. He has written specialist reports for government agencies in Japan, Russia, Dubai, Nigeria, Liberia and the Caribbean, and is highly-regarded as a speaker on the international security circuit. He is currently on the Professional Doctorate programme at Portsmouth University Department of Criminology & Justice, where his research is concerned with the strategic management of security operations at the extremes of organisational complexity. He can be contacted at david@davidrubens-associates.com / www.davidrubens-associates.com