Sweeping a vehicle for explosives during a protection detail

Updated: Jan 26, 2021


As an executive protection specialist you must consider the fact that it is possible that an adversary may try to take out your principal with an improvised vehicle explosive device. It could be their vehicle or the detail vehicle which might have been left unattended for a moment in time. You may consider an explosive detection dog to do a sweep or a mirror to check the undercarriage of the vehicle; but, what exactly are you looking for? What signs of tampering are evident? Sweeps won't always work if you don't know what you are looking for.


You should always be systematic in your sweep. Sweep the vehicle clockwise or counterclockwise but do it the same direction as often as you can. Some situations may vary of course but as a norm try to be systematic. Check the area around the vehicle and under the vehicle. Check both the exterior and interior. Have a team check the vehicle prior to the principal arriving at the vehicle. Then the vehicle should be monitored until the principal arrives at the vehicle.


When assessing the vehicle interior look for any exposed wires. Do you see any explosive component parts or parts that don't look like they belong? Do you smell any unusual chemical smells like those common in homemade explosives? Are there unusual bulges in seats? How about parts of the interior that especially appear to be hidden from view? Seat belt buckles come to mind.


Generally when checking the exterior of the vehicle and the undercarriage you want to note if the area is cleaner or dirtier than the rest of the vehicle. Unusual fingerprints might indicate grease or oil. clearly if you see recent paint, unusual scratch marks, or fresh caulking then you should take note. Use your senses. Are there any unusual smells, leaks, or smoke? Extra radio antennas or modifications to grills? Check the gas tank especially if it is not a locking gas cap. Note unnecessary stress cracks in windows. Is there an uneven weight distribution of the vehicle? Are there new or shiny bolts and screws? Is it difficult to access the bumper cavities? Check the tires. Do they sound solid? How about the lug nuts? Are they tampered with, do they look clean or dirty or new? Lastly the undercarriage. Are there new frame welds? How do the air shocks look? Do items appear taped or attached to the frame?


I like explosive detection dogs to screen the vehicles but they are not always available. I also have my own screening mirror I use to check under vehicles. The simple fact remains, no matter what screening tool you use you must know what you're looking for.


Stay safe and remain vigilant.

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