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SCALED-UP SECURITY

The property at 868 Patriot Drive in Moorpark contains what looks like a block from an average suburban neighborhood dropped in the middle of a warehouse. Much like a Hollywood studio backlot, the buildings are hollow and devoid of patrons. This is the Patriot Center, a $5 million, 20,000-square-foot facility opened last month by Covered 6, a private security company that offers training courses taught by consultants with backgrounds in law enforcement, military and corporate security. Covered 6 uses this fake city to conduct its programs, which range from physical security and executive protection to tactical medicine and first response. Each façade has a realistic interior blueprint and several have interchangeable designs so students can effectively train for emergency situations such as an active shooter or a major injury in real-world settings. For example, the company staged a first response exercise at the center earlier this month in which about a dozen students simulated the proper way to aid a bicyclist who suffered a severe leg injury after a crash. The class started with a preparatory rundown in a classroom upstairs. Once the emergency call came through, the students sprinted downstairs to the scene. To make the drill more realistic, instructors dressed the subject’s leg with fake blood and gore, and the subject acted uncooperative due to shock. Students practiced standard medical procedures like assessing the subjects condition and applying a tourniquet to limit blood loss before moving into initial trauma care. Once the subject was stable, they retreated to a debriefing session. Additionally, the center houses a retail shop slinging tactical gear and ballistic products designed by Covered 6 and partner Condor Elite, a no-ammo shooting range for safe target practice, a full gym and a fledgling cybersecurity classroom. Even more impressive than the facility itself is that Covered 6 bought the building and stood up the center with no outside funding. “We’ve been rolling over all the proceeds and capital from the business to do this,” said Chris Dunn, Covered 6’s chief executive who founded the company in 2010. “It was very difficult. The good thing about having that struggle is organically, we’ve educated ourselves on how to do this right and really hone our product to help veterans.” Developing talent Covered 6 designs its courses specifically to help former soldiers land security jobs where they can apply their skills learned in the military. Even the company’s name is a play on military positioning lingo that boils down to “I’ve got your back.” “We have (soldiers) who lost a decade of integration into the private-public lifestyle in the U.S. Now you’re trying to integrate and you have a minimum wage job because your tank driving skills didn’t equate to the corporate sector. It’s very difficult, I think probably more difficult than it has ever been,” said Dunn. But programs aren’t limited to veterans. Covered 6 enrolls civilians, as well as ex-law enforcement, training professionals and anybody else interested in security work. Standard five-week academy programs cost around $13,000, a hefty price tag, but one that leaves veterans enough money from their G.I. Bill to still get a college degree without taking on debt. Much like a vocational school, the aim is for students to complete their courses, get certified and immediately find employment with companies such as Allied Universal, Constella Solutions or Gavin de Becker. Exceptional students are routinely hired directly by Covered 6 itself. Currently, the company has an 85 percent placement rate for its students, 80 percent of whom are veterans. Dunn wants to see that placement rate rise to 90 percent. “You come to our course, you are getting a job — that’s my goal.” In addition to its training programs, Covered 6 serves as a security partner to clients ranging from aerospace companies to schools, studios and cities. Among them are Virgin Orbit, SpaceX, private sector high schools Harvard Westlake in Studio City and Viewpoint School in Calabasas, Pepperdine University in Malibu, as well as high net worth individuals like influencers and other celebrities for whom it provides personal security. High demand Dunn got his start in the Army as a military police officer in the 1980s. After serving his tour he joined the Los Angeles Police Department, eventually becoming a detective. After retirement he moved to the private sector, a transition he said enabled him to innovate in ways that weren’t possible within the military or police department’s rigid structures. “When I got to the private sector, there was no training. State standards were very low. I had this epiphany that maybe I should start some sort of training and provide what we have in the military, especially if you’re going to carry a gun,” Dunn said. “We’re able to affect things on a much larger scale.” Dunn taught his first course in a Simi Valley classroom in 2010. Within three months, he said, the program outgrew its digs. Interest was such that he needed a facility of his own, but there was no funding. So he had to build the company gradually, saving money all the while. Today the company employs 175 full-time workers and is on track to post revenue of $8 million this year, with 137 percent growth from last year. Dunn predicts that end-of-year growth will be more than 100 percent every year going forward. “It’s working almost too well. Our biggest problem now is going to be scaling,” he said. “The need is there.” In 2018, the Labor Department awarded Covered 6 the first National Program Standard for physical and cybersecurity programs. Crime reduction One recent client is the city of Hidden Hills — a partnership that resulted in a huge crime reduction last year when the Los Angeles Police Department was struggling to combat a string of gang-related home invasions and burglaries that plagued the region. “Their private security wasn’t cutting it, the sheriffs were overwhelmed and they didn’t have the manpower. Covered 6 came in and it went to zero crime. We stopped 63 intruders last year,” said Dunn. Importantly, this initiative was done without guns. Dunn emphasized that Covered 6’s philosophy is one of de-escalation and harm reduction. He also maintained Covered 6 didn’t halt this activity on its own. It had help not only from the sheriffs, but from residents who allowed Covered 6 to install camera systems in their individual homes. At Pepperdine, a client for more than eight years, Covered 6 provides a broader approach. “We have to manage a small city here,” said Lance Bridgesmith, the chief of Pepperdine’s public safety department. “There’s a lot of interpersonal conflict. Often we just need routine enforcement of parking or quiet hours … but we need to be prepared and ready for the x-factor.” To that end, Covered 6 conducts training for the school’s own private security team in specialized areas such as fire and traffic enforcement, as well as conflict management and “verbal judo,” a method of conversational de-escalation. The company also provides personal self-defense and situational awareness training for students, particularly those who live off campus or take semesters abroad. “If that can help (one student) feel like they regained control and have more power where they didn’t before … it’s worth everything,” Bridgesmith said. Up next for Covered 6 is geographic expansion. Dunn has his eye on Las Vegas — a means of “following the jobs.” The city’s casinos present a huge opportunity for Covered 6’s cybersecurity arm, which is still being formed, and hotels along the strip are constantly in the market for armed guards and camera systems. Other technology such as artificial intelligence, drones and geofencing will present opportunities as well, once they are reliable enough to use for crime reduction. Dunn said he hopes the Covered 6 model will find its way into colleges and universities. The company already teaches a joint course with Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria. He hopes to get the proper accreditation so his students can get college credit for completing his training programs. “We’re all playing catch-up. (The Patriot Center) is the first facility of its kind,” he said. “We need to take it across the country.”

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