Getting All HET Up

by Tim Mercer
Posted on 1st May 2018

What is Hostile Environment Training (HET) and when and why might you need it? That's the question posed and answered by our guest author this month, Tim Mercer.

Monday dawned and that work problem James hadn't been able to resolve on Friday remained fixed in his mind. The weather was irritably hot and humid as he reversed out of the mission compound. Juggling a mug of coffee and taking a call distracted James from noticing the white Toyota containing two men pull away from the kerb and slip into the busy morning traffic behind him. After a year working for a Christian relief organisation in Kabul James still couldn't get used to the bumper to bumper congestion. Taking a narrow side street hoping to make up some time, the tailing Toyota drew closer. Suddenly a van sped out of an alleyway blocking the road in front causing James to brake violently and spill his coffee. Masked men with handguns jumped out of both vehicles, wrenching the driver's door open. James is dragged out of his car and a hood pulled roughly over his head from behind, immediately taking away his sight, hearing, perception and freedom. Paralysing fear grips him as he's bundled into the boot of the car...destination and fate unknown.

Could this happen to you and more importantly could it have been prevented and where did things start to go wrong for James?

Today wasn't the first day the kidnappers had watched Jame's home, it had been happening for weeks. Prior to any criminal event there will always be a period of hostile surveillance. If he had checked the street each day before moving off he would have spotted the Toyota. He should have 'combat parked' his car, facing out, then the suspicious vehicle sitting across the road from his gate would have been noticed as it pulled away with him. Clearing his mind of issues and being situationally aware is one of the cornerstones of security, whereas James's head was full of clutter. Locking your car doors and keeping windows up including maintaining a 'reactionary gap' between you and the vehicle in front buys time and options, if the road is suddenly blocked. James is now a hostage which opens up a whole new set of difficulties for him and his organisation. He never attended a Hostile Environment Course so has no idea what to do to survive the next coming months. Don't be like James. Learn situation awareness and avoid and if worst comes to worst, how to survive. First Rock can teach you these skills and many others.

The Basics

Aside from the dramatic, there are some basic things you can do to improve your security and protection. As a security adviser I am often asked what safety equipment do I take oversees. The expected answer ranges from ballistic helmets to gas masks and maybe even a defibrillator thrown in for good measure. Whilst that equipment may have a role, there are a few inexpensive items I always bring with me. A small smoke alarm purchased in any hardware store goes beside my bedroom door. It's not always going to be terrorists or criminals that cause harm. A fire and smoke inhalation can be equally as dangerous. On my bedside table will be a headtorch and smoke mask bought from an outdoor store, eBay or Amazon. My door will be wedged to prevent the unwelcome guest, particularly at night time as door locks may not be sufficient. My favourites are a 'Wedge-it' and a solid rubber one. This provides additional security and peace of mind. The first task on arriving in a new country and place of residence is to familiarise yourself with the escape route from your room in the event of a fire or terrorist attack. Simply walking this route ensures that if anything where to occur you are able to extract from the danger.

Should you or your organisation require training in any of the subjects from the list below, please do not hesitate to contact me.

  • Personal Security Foundation
  • Situation awareness and anti-surveillance
  • Self-defence against assault
  • Dealing with a road traffic collision
  • Tactical driving and parking
  • Negotiating vehicle checkpoints
  • Surviving a riot, ambush, hijacking, crossfire and shelling
  • Crafting a Safe Room at your residence or office
  • Kidnap prevention and survival
  • First Aid

Tim Mercer is a former member of Police Special Operations Branch. He worked as a surveillance operator and firearms instructor during the troubles in Northern Ireland. After leaving the force he attended Belfast Bible College for 3 years, before establishing First Rock. His aim is to provide realistic training to faith-based NGOs and missionary organisations, preparing them to live and work safely in non-permissive environments. The benefits include duty of care obligations, prevention of litigation and peace of mind for the families of short or longterm missionaries. Tim is also a High Risk Adviser and instructor for many media organisations including the BBC, ITN, Reuters, CNN and NBC and has trained thousands of individuals. He teaches on Hostile Environment and First Aid courses (HEFAT) and also goes with journalists to war zones as their security adviser, close protection and medic. He has worked in over 100 countries including Syria during 2013/14 and completed numerous trips into Mosul October 2016 - September 2017, when the city was being liberated by Iraqi and coalition forces.

First Rock will be running a Hostile Environment course in England in June 2018. For further details please contact Tim via the following.