A Secret Service agent has to be prepared for anything at all times. Taking a bullet for a president falls on one end of the spectrum, but they also must be ready to jump into action should the power suddenly go out, or to tease information from someone in an interrogation room. (You may not know that the Secret Service investigates financial crimes in addition to protecting the country’s leaders.) Part of being prepared means knowing what to have on hand in the event something does happen, according to Evy Poumpouras, a former Secret Service Special Agent of 12 years who was in the protective details for President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, and now appears on the Bravo show Spy Games and will release her first book Becoming Bulletproof in April.
“Any good field agent that is worth their salt will carry all this stuff,” she says of the following eight things, adding that having them on her at all times today is no less important than it was on any day she was tasked with protecting the life of Obama (whom she appears with above). “I carry everything to this day as a civilian. Because even when I was an agent, I didn’t just use them only in agent circumstances. The two worlds interconnect.”
“My partner at the time, who was also an agent, and I were driving somewhere, and on the sidewalk we found someone completely unconscious. We ran out to try to help that person — he was dying — but we realized that neither of us had any type of kit on us to give him proper CPR. In that moment, my partner and I created a plastic mouthpiece to put on his mouth to try to give him CPR. (You want to save a life but you also have to protect your own.) Since then, I got this CPR mini kit, and to this day — I’m looking at it now — it’s been on my keys. It’s a plastic mechanism with a little tube you put in a person’s mouth so you can give them air without exchanging fluids. You never know who’s going to need help. We’re all temporarily on this planet of human beings, so let’s try to take care of one another. I feel that everybody should have one, because when you see someone who needs help, you have the means to help them. On a side note, this also makes it so easy to find my keys in my bag.”
“I learned to carry this when I became an agent. I never thought to carry a little mini flashlight, but I use it when power goes out, when I go to dark places, when I’m looking for something underneath my seat in my car or on an airplane. What people don’t realize is that we are also trained to use flashlights for self-defense. If we feel a threat, one of the things we’re taught to do is shine the light in the person’s eyes so it temporarily blinds them. You can’t just use any flashlight. It has to have a certain LED component and a certain level of power and strength for the light to be strong enough to do that. Surefire is the brand that I’ve always used. It is the best. Police use it, so if it’s good enough for law enforcement and all the tactical teams, then it’s good enough for you. And they come super super small — they have so many [sizes], some you can fit on your keychain, some you can fit in your pocket. Mine is big, probably larger than a normal person’s, but because I carry a purse I can keep it there. Shine it into somebody’s eyes, blind them for a few seconds, and run like a maniac. It’s also made out of metal, so you can actually use it to fight against someone. If you grab somebody’s wrist where there’s a pressure point, where the bone is, you can slam it against the bone. You can slam it into somebody’s face.”
“You could be in a car accident, or somebody else could have an accident, and you can use this to cut a person out of their seatbelt in an emergency. Or, you can use it for the mundane: I recently went on the Today show, and there were strings hanging off of my shirt, so I used it to cut them off. It can help you tighten your sunglasses, it can help you loosen a screw. It’s just like a mini tool kit that you have at your disposal for anything you may need. The key is to get one you can travel with — it depends on the size you get. It’s a little tricky because I’ve traveled with it on occasion, and some airports would let me on planes with it, while others would not. Keep it in your suitcase if you’re not able to carry it on.”
“Nobody wants bad breath. I use them now for interacting with people, but during my previous job, I would use them when I interrogated people. When you interview or interrogate someone — and I use those words interchangeably because that’s how you do proper interrogation — you don’t browbeat people, you talk to them. So what you see on TV is wonderful for TV but does not work in real life. When you talk to people like garbage, you get garbage. Because I would spend so many hours in an interview room talking and interrogating someone, I always had to make sure I had fresh breath. They’re not going to want to talk to you if you have bad breath. They clam up, they shut up. Part of being a good communicator is people wanting to speak with you, and if your breath sucks no one wants to talk to you. And you definitely don’t want to chew gum, because chewing gum is really annoying to people.”
“I don’t like hand sanitizer because it’s just for your hands and nothing else. With wipes, if I go sit down to eat at a restaurant and the tables are filthy, I can bust one out and wipe it down. I use them all the time on airplanes. I spent a big part of my life on planes; I used to get sick all the time after I’d been on a one, and I couldn’t figure out why. Then a good friend who’s a stewardess told me that they never clean the cabins, ever. So I wipe those down when I get on the plane, and then also any hotel rooms. The remote control is one of the dirtiest things in those. Nobody cleans them. So hand wipes are fantastic. These are my favorite because they also smell good.”
“I take a notebook with me everywhere. I learned to do that from a former supervisor in the Secret Service who was very high up the chain of command — I noticed that wherever he went, when he spoke to anybody, he would listen and then take thoughtful notes. Then one day I finally asked him, ‘What do you always write in there?’ He was like, ‘I want to make sure that I remember everything I discussed.’ And it’s true. I forget so many things, and this is a great way to maintain agency over myself, to make sure I follow up on the things I say I’m going to do. This one looks professional and is durable.”
“I always use a mechanical pencil, and this is the one that I use. I make mistakes and I like to erase them. I like to have clean notes. When you write with a pen it’s permanent, so I think using a pencil is also psychological — I know that nothing in life is permanent and things change.”
“I want something durable that I can bang around. And less is more — I don’t want anything bulky, or I’m less likely to use it. When I have something little like this, I can put it in my purse or whatever bag I have. I’ve had situations when I’ve not had it with me and my phone dies, and the worst excuse you can say is, ‘Sorry, my phone died.’ Even if it’s true, it always makes you look unprofessional. So part of putting out a professional image is honestly being fully charged. ”
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