"An EPO [Executive Protection Officer] must be highly trained in such basic skills as pedestrian and vehicle escort drills, vehicle search procedures and unarmed combat. But the most utilised skill is observation, a high level of which must be maintained at all times.

Familiarity breeds complacency, so we urge clients to avoid routines - eg, travelling the same route day in and day out, using the same shops or petrol station every day.

As a bodyguard it is your job to protect your client not just physically, but from stress and embarrassment. You have to inspire confidence in your client by possessing discretion, loyalty and professionalism.

Avoidance always counts above confrontation, and depends on precise pre- operational planning and threat assessment. This involves detailed route surveys; consideration of hospitals and police stations, safe houses, danger areas and alternative routes. Every venue must first be visited by the team and a full survey carried out - unused access and exit points made secure, an escape route with waiting transport planned, a safe-room arranged... Still, no amount of planning can prevent a well-executed attack. You have to remain in control of any such situation and deal with incidents quickly and effectively to well-rehearsed procedures." Fiona McClymont

Partners Brent Hardy and Bill Pettit run Secure Consultants, PO Box 35, Manchester M27 9SP (0161-661 1809)