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ISU Public Safety

What To Do If You Become A Hostage

Provided by Corporate Risk International

Security Technology & Design, April 1999

In the event you become a hostage due to either the hijacking of your aircraft by terrorists or kidnapping by a criminal or terrorist gang, consider the following guidelines.

Above all, remain calm, Appear cooperative, be polite, follow instructions and do not argue or provoke the captors. Listen carefully to their initial demands to make sure you understand what may be asked of you. The first few moments of a hijacking or kidnapping are the most dangerous for the victim. The subjects will be extremely nervous and you should do nothing to cause them alarm.

Try and establish some type of relationship with your captors. Discuss your family or pets with them. If you have photos, and they display any interest, show them. Try to get the captors to discuss their families. Do Not discuss religion or politics when dealing with the terrorists. Make every effort to win their respect for you. It is not necessary to grovel or plead or demean yourself in any way. Be yourself, as best you can considering the circumstances. Do not lose faith in yourself. Remember, you did nothing wrong! They are at fault, not you.

Try to remain alert throughout the incident. Keep your physical and emotional strength as high as possible. Try to avoid depression, and always keep in mind that law enforcement and civil authorities are doing everything possible to end your ordeal. Exercise by stretching in place or by rolling your neck and limbs. Sleep and wash up when you can, and eat and drink when you get a chance. Think thoughts of your family, say a favorite prayer, sing a song to yourself. Do not give up. Remember, you did nothing wrong.

Keep track as best you can of sounds and movements, inside and outside where you are held. Mentally note all you can about your captors - their dress, mannerisms, accents, titles, if any, etc. This type of information will be helpful to law enforcement officials when the incident is over.

If the incident is lengthy, remember the "Stockholm Syndrome" may come into play. This phenomenon is named for a bank hostage situation that took place in Sweden. During the course of the ordeal, the victim began to display strong positive feelings for the kidnapper. This has been attributed to tremendous psychological stress that victims are under and the overwhelming determination to survive the incident, no matter what. This is not a problem and, fortunately, is not permanent. The Malady is very common, particularly in long-term hostage situations. When it occurs, the captors usually make note of it, and experience shows they are less likely to harm the victims.

If your captivity is lengthy, it is imperative to establish regular mental and physical exercise routines. If space is provided, walk daily and do in-place exercises.

If you are confined to close quarters, do isometrics or in-place stretching exercises. Keep your mind active. Read, if material is available. Do memory exercises. Keep a mental calendar of what has happened to you. Do problem solving. Make up a story or write a novel in your mind about your experience. Even daydream.

Consider escape attempts only as a last resort and only if chances of success are extremely high.. The FBI advises there are almost no circumstances under which an escape attempt is recommended. Escape attempts should be a last resort. Remember law enforcement officials are negotiating for your release and these negotiations are the means by which your ordeal most likely will be ended. Always remember you are worth more alive than dead to the captors, because law enforcement negotiators will not pay ransom unless they are given "proof that you are alive." So have patience, and try to do the best you can in your situation.

If a rescue attempts occurs, get to the floor immediately. If possible, cover your head with your hands and arms. Do not make any false moves! Let the rescuers know where you are (and who you are) by yelling out your name. You can plan for this occurrence by noting ahead of time the location of furniture you can hide behind when the rescue action begins.

How To Respond at the Beginning of a Kidnapping and/or Extortion Incident

Most kidnap/hostage situations begin with a telephone call from one of the kidnappers announcing they have the victim. The perpetrators state emphatically that unless a ransom is paid the victim will be killed or seriously harmed. Usually this call is made to either the victim's immediate family, a friend, a business colleague or to the corporate switchboard where the victim is employed.

It is important that the person who receives this first call remains as calm as possible (not very easy given the circumstances) and does his or her best to obtain as much information as possible from the kidnapper-caller. It is very unlikely the kidnapper-caller will stay on the line long enough for anyone to obtain any more information other than the initial announcement that they have the victim and want a ransom. If the kidnapper-caller does stay on the line, some quick questions that could be ask include:

Last Modified: 03/04/15 at 03:04:33 PM