Secret Service Secrets: How They Keep the President Safe

Written by | Updated October 25, 2016

Secret Service Secrets

You might protect your home with motion sensing lights, automatic locks, or even a loyal guard dog. But if you’re the President of the United States, it’s a bit more sophisticated and things tend to go beyond a simple alarm system. We love geeking out about anything security, so we dug a little deeper to find out what exactly goes into protecting the POTUS and other high-ranking members of the cabinet. We knew there would be a lot behind every procedure and protocol, but we were surprised by just how involved—and sometimes silly—guarding our Commander in Chief can be.

Here are the most interesting facts we learned about one of the most thorough security details in the world.

Code Names

Most anyone—from super spies on confidential missions to kids sharing secrets on the playground—understand that you don’t always want eavesdroppers to know what you’re talking about. That’s why the Secret Service speaks in code. While we can’t make sense of every cipher or cryptograph, we do know each president gets to choose his (or possibly her) own nickname—and President Obama chose Renegade. To keep with the “R” theme, Michelle, Malia, and Sasha are all known as Renaissance, Radiance, and Rosebud, respectively. The Clintons were Eagle and Evergreen, so you can see a trend here.

Secret Service Branches

The Secret Service was founded in 1865, and is made up of 3,200 special agents, 1,300 Uniformed Division officers, and over 2,000 others who perform technical and administrative tasks.

There are also eight supporting branches of the Secret Service (that we know about), including the Airspace Security Branch, Counter Sniper Team, Emergency Response Team, Counter Surveillance Unit, Counter Assault Team, Hazardous Agent Mitigation, Medical Emergency Response Team, and the Magnetometer Operations Unit. Each division is responsible for taking precautionary measures to protect our nation’s leader, and responding in case of an emergency.

Personal Detail

Those tasked to accompany the president wherever he goes are a special division of the Secret Service. The president, presidential family, and vice president all get permanent personal detailing units. Secret Service agents can decline this responsibility, but once they accept, they stay with their protectees throughout the entire term. Dressed in sharp black suits, these men  and women pledge their lives to protect the president, and are ever vigilant to keep him safe.


In the event of a serious emergency (think global disaster or attack on the White House,) Secret Service agents are prepared to rush the acting president and other important figures to a secret underground bunker. Obviously, we can’t tell you where that is, but it does exist.

Presidential Limo

The president’s car isn’t your typical SUV. Nicknamed “The Beast”, this presidential limo is a 1.5 million dollar, souped-up Cadillac One. Aside from the leather interior and high design, it comes with fortress-like glass and eight-inch impenetrable armor, so it can withstand bullets and small bombs.

The Beast is more of a Frankenstein than a Caddy because it has an engine that belongs in a Mac truck. It’s also equipped with firefighting equipment, oxygen tanks, vials of the current president’s blood type, and weapons. Plus, it can go from zero to 60 miles per hour in 15 seconds in case the president needs to make a getaway.

Air Force One

Air Force One serves as a swanky private plane, office, and fighter jet for the president. For instance, Air Force One can be refueled in the air, even though it can store enough fuel to make it halfway around the world. This nerve-wracking process requires another plane to fly next to the president’s and use a hose to pump in additional fuel—making it possible for the plane to stay aloft in dangerous circumstances.

Air Force One can also fire flares to disarm missiles, shoot at enemy aircraft, and accommodate the presidential limousine onboard. Oh, and Air Force One is one of two; the president has another nearly identical plane in case something goes wrong with the first.

24/7 Surveillance

When the president is in the White House, there is 24/7, 365 surveillance. Even when he is out and about, there are constant eyes on him. If he’s speaking, snipers are posted on rooftops, agents are dispersed throughout crowds, and his unit is by his side. You can’t even tour the White House in groups larger than 10—whether or not the president is home. And you aren’t allowed to bring cameras, purses, strollers, or pretty much anything besides your phone. Suffice to say, security is tight in the house of the president.

Contingency Plans

The people who protect the president don’t let a stone go unturned. They have contingency plan upon contingency plan and account for every possible scenario. For instance, the president can never be more than 10 minutes from a trauma center. The Secret Service also shuts down highways when the president will be traveling to decrease chances of an attack, performs background checks on hotel workers and others who may interact with the president, and always sweeps a room before the president enters. This kind of planning helps them anticipate issues, train for emergencies, and keep the president out of harm’s way.

Want to ramp up your own security to protect your family like the Secret Service protects the president? You can start by comparing top home security systems like ADT and Vivint. Then, you can narrow down your search by choosing from home security cameras with high-tech features like night vision and motion sensing. And don’t forget to check out companies that offer home automation features like smart doorbells, smart locks, and other gadgets that will make your home safer.

Have your own home safety tips? We’d love to hear about your security strategy, so post your tips in the comments section below to help keep the SafeWise community safer.

Written by Caroline Maurer

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