Sunday, November 30, 2008

What to do in a hostage situation?

Is this something one even ever thought about? Or tried to read up about?
Even after the horrificness of the Kandahar hijacking, we all think it could never happen to us. But maybe it can. God forbid it should. But maybe it can. And perhaps, at the back of our minds it would be good for us to know a bit about what we could do to improve our chances of getting out of it, alive.

This is what an international security organisation has as standard hostage negotiating procedure:
D-6 Hostage Situations ((b)) (For TRAINING ONLY)
NGO's (Non-Government Organization) get abducted for a variety of reasons, grievances over the organizational program, politics, terrorism, ransom, and sometimes for a combination of these reasons. Sometimes the motives will change. For example, hostage situations may start out as politically motivated, but during the course of the situation, it may turn into a ransom kidnapping.
Regardless of the abduction cause, most hostages stand a good chance of surviving the ordeal.
In the event a staff member is abducted:
Notify the Caller that there is a no negotiation, NO RANSOME will be Paid.
§ Advise the caller that you are manning the phones and that you are not negotiating.
§ Also advise the caller that you are trying to contact the person who has authority, but have not yet been able to do so. Or, tell the caller you are in contact with the person of authority and can relay messages.
§ Be sympathetic with the hostage taker(s), but do not make them feel they did the right thing.
§ Listen carefully to everything the hostage taker(s) has to say.
Ø Suggest the release of all hostages.
The Country or Area Director will:
- Contact Headquarters to notify them of the situation and make arrangements for the immediate dispatch of the Security Specialists, if desired.

- Arrange daily contact with family to provide them with updates.
Knowledge is one of the key factors in surviving a hostage situation. Former hostages have articulated this fact, stating that the lack of knowledge concerning their future and what is being done to secure their release was paramount during captivity. It is therefore important that each staff member familiar themselves with this section in the event they are ever taken hostage or held in captivity.
Although each hostage situation is different, some basic similarities exist. Similarities to keep in mind:
- Expect to be blindfolded.
- Expect to be drugged. This is usually done to keep you quiet and may be to your benefit during the initial phase of the abduction.
- Expect a long ordeal. Hostage situations are either short in duration or very long, lasting weeks or months.
- Know that the two most dangerous times of a hostage situation are those during the initial abduction and those at the time of release, especially if it is a release involving a rescue.
There are three basic phases to each hostage situation.
The Intimidation Phase
The Custodial Phase
The Resolution Phase
Each phase requires the abductee following certain dos and don’ts and specific roles tt be played. The following guidelines will increase the individual’s chances for survival in these situations.
Intimidation Phase is that time in which the individual(s) are initially abducted.
Role of the abductee:
o Try to keep calm.
o Obey orders
o Do Not make eye contact
o Do NOT speak unless spoken to.
o Do NOT whisper to colleagues.
o Do NOT offer suggestions.
o Do NOT argue.
o Do NOT make any sudden moves. Ask first.
o Do NOT be humorous.
o Stay in part of the group, do not stand out alone.
o Try not to give up any personal identification.
o Try not to allow the covering of your head. This dehumanizes you and makes it easier for the captors to dispose of you at will.
o The first hour is the most dangerous. Do your utmost to maintain your composure.
Expectations from the terrorist:
The terrorist wants to gain control in this phase, anything that threatens his control will be eliminated. They want control in this phase and they want it as soon as they can. You actions will determine your chances of survival. Expect to see violence, expect shouting, expect mayhem and disorder.
Custodial Phase: The time during which the hostage and the terrorist must take care of personal needs and body functions. This phase due to the stress that both the terrorist and the abductee feel increase the pace of metabolism and the reaction is that both parties, because of the stress will need to utilize regular bathroom visits. Although this could be embarrassing these mechanisms can be used as your advantage. This phase has long hours of boredom and should be utilized to remind the captor that you are human the same as they are. It is important to talk about your family, (make one up, or borrow one if you don’t have one) their family, their likes (Soccer), etc. Each effort you make should be to remind them of your humanity, and de-emphasize your symbolism that they are holding you for. This is the time held in seclusion.
Role of the abductee:
- Be patient.
- Try to rest, you will need it.
- Be polite to your captors. Treat them with respect.
- Develop a rapport with your captors.
- Listen well. Do not argue. Keep physically active. Exercise.
- Keep mentally active. Read, write or play mental games.
- Get appropriate amounts of sleep.
- Do not reject food. Keep up your strength.
- Keep track of time.
- Do not despair. A lot of people will be working on your release.
- Urge to maintain high personal hygiene habits. Your humanity must be emphasized.
- Demand medical attention for those who need it.
- Urge for the release of women and children as a show of “Good Faith.”
- Converse with your captors as often as possible.
- Don’t give away your personal belongings, like your watch, glasses or a ring unless the item is demanded.
Expectations from the terrorist:
The terrorist will also become lulled into a state of frustration as demands are being made and negotiations are prolonged. Although during this phase the violence has been reduced, it is important to remember that at any moment the terrorist may want to show how in control they are by abusing the captors to the point of murdering them. This occurs, as demands are not being met.
Resolution Phase. This is the time a rescue is attempted, the ransom is paid or the hostage takers give up on their efforts.
Role of the abductee:
Building Rapport: As previously stated, it is important to develop a rapport with your captors. It is much more difficult to kill someone you “know,” than it is someone you don’t know or someone who has been dehumanized by total seclusion or simulated seclusion effected by covering the captive’s head with a cloth bag.
If the release is negotiated, follow all commands to the letter.
If the release comes as a result of a rescue attempt, follow the guidelines in this section.
§ Try to keep calm
§ Stay in part of the group, do not stand out alone.
§ Expect to be treated as a terrorist after the rescue until authorities now exactly who you are.
§ Expect to be stunned by explosions and gunfire.
§ Expect violence.
§ Do not allow yourself to be used as a shield, stay limp on the ground
§ Be prepared to move quickly when told to do so.
Expectations of the Terrorist:
The terrorist will try to eliminate every thing in their control including themselves. Expect to see violence, expect shouting, and expect mayhem and disorder. Expect smoke and attempts to use hostages as shields.
Be aware the three phases are fluid and activities will move back and forth between them. Pay attention to the actions of the terrorist, which will dictate which role you must play.
Be aware of the “Stockholm Syndrome,” a situation where abductee’s empathize with their captors. Those in captivity have been known to sympathize so much with the terrorist that they volunteered to be human shields in order to protect the captors. Keep your identity, and ideals in tact.
Be aware of the “Berlin Syndrome,” a situation where the abductee reaches the point of not being able to deal with the captivity, and commits an act forcing the terrorist to kill the abductee. It is an act of suicide. Identify these traits in individuals, do your best to curb that behavior, but in the end stay away from that person at all costs. (See the section on dealing with Critical Incident Stress, CIS)
Physical and Mental Health: Maintaining your physical and mental health is extremely important during a hostage situation. You may need it to escape should the opportunity present itself or during the rescue attempt.
Keep track of time and days.
Keep a daily routine. Try to structure your life in some way.
Practice physical exercises, even if its just isometrics.
Drink plenty of fluids. It is common to become dehydrated in hostage situations.
Stay well groomed and as clean as possible.
Think positive. Focus on pleasant memories, such as your family.
Don’t lose faith in your eventual release. Your captors may inform you of false release dates just to dishearten you.
Remember that you may be subjected to humiliating and terrifying experiences, such as mock executions, which result in the inability to control your bladder or your bowels. This is normal and others have suffered similar degradations. Its okay.
Think positively. Don’t give up easily.
A. Policy dictates not to give in to the demands of hostage takers. In other words, HQ WILL NOT pay ransom for the release of staff members.
B. HQ, Government authorities, nor the hostage negotiators will reveal the exact strategies that will be employed during the negotiation process not even to families.

And here are some links:

And finally, why the world thinks we went wrong in our handling of the crisis, and why did it result in such huge loss of life.

More information on how to be better prepared to face crisis situations

Safety & Risk Management During Terrorist incidents
Terrorism Defined
Terrorism is the use of violence, or the threat of violence, to create a climate of fear, in a given population.
Who is a Terrorist?
Anyone who, through the use of violence, or the threat of violence, attempts to create a climate of fear in a given population.
US Advisory System
Company uses the same alert system regarding incidents on and around our campuses.
Types of Terrorism
Physical Terrorism
The physical destruction of property and/or the taking of human life. September 11, 2001, is an example of physical terrorism that not only destroyed property and took human life, but also had a psychological effect on the population as a whole.
Psychological Terrorism
Relies on instilling fear in others and taking away the basic freedoms/rights that we take for granted on a daily basis. It can be as simple as being afraid to open our mail, to go out in public, or to travel.
Psychological terrorism effects everyone differently and can have long lasting effects.
Technological Terrorism
The taking advantage of technology to disrupt, destroy, or hamper the use of today’s technology. Computer viruses are a perfect example of technological terrorism.
A simple, well written virus can bring the world to it’s knees by disrupting computer usage around the world.
Chemicals, diseases, and nuclear waste could be used as weapons of mass destruction, but producing the infectious agents, toxins, or chemicals and then disseminating it in the air, water or food would be a daunting challenge.
Preparing for Terrorism
Be aware of your surroundings
Take precautions when traveling
Leave the area if you feel uncomfortable
Know the location of emergency exits
Assemble a Disaster Supply Kit
Know the location of fire extinguishers
Be prepared to “Shelter In Place”
Preparing for Terrorism (cont.)
In the immediate area of an incident
Stay calm
Leave the area of impact
Seek safe shelter
“Shelter In Place”
Remain orderly
Preparing for Terrorism (cont.)
In The Immediate Area Of An Incident (cont.)
Listen To Company Officials
Listen To Public Safety Officials
Listen To Police
Listen To Fire Department Officials
Commitment to Prior Planning
Representation on City Task Force
Emergency Preparedness Task Force
Enhanced communications
Staff training and development
Mutual Aid Agreements
Reacting to A Building Explosion
Know the location of emergency exits
Review Emergency Evacuation Procedures
Know location of fire extinguishers
Do not panic – remain calm
Do not use elevators
Stay away from windows
Immediately evacuate the building
Go to a “Safe Zone” at least 100 feet away
Seek emergency shelter
Shelter In Place
In the event of an airborne attack, individuals should be prepared to “Shelter In Place.” Close all windows and doors, seal door cracks, and proceed to internal building areas, such as: interior offices or hallways.
Once your work area has been sealed, notify/assist others in the area to do the same. Stay “Sheltered In Place” until the all clear signal is given.
Shelter In Place (cont.)
When entering a building once an emergency has been declared, individuals who may have been contaminated by a foreign substance, must seek shelter in the closest men’s or ladies room.
Emergency personnel will be directed to search the 1st floor restrooms.
Be Prepared
Be prepared to do without services
Natural gas
ATM Machines
Be Prepared
Follow official instructions
General evacuation
Evacuation to a shelter
“Shelter In Place” (stay indoors)
Do not panic – remain calm
Conserve energy


Here's where you can check the list of the victims of the terrorist attack last week.

Welcome to Mumbai Helps

We have all been stunned, shocked, heartbroken and terrified over the past week. Events have unspooled which have left us beyond words, beyond pain, beyond emotion. A perveading feeling of helplessness rules.
This blog is an effort to help.
Help Mumbai, help ourselves to help ourselves.
Because if we dont do it, no one will.

What does this blog plan to do?
Simple. Anyone with an urge to do more than just be a bystander to the carnage and mayhem that wrecks the city everytime we have a disaster causes by external elements or through natural causes like the 26/7/ flooding in, can help.
We will maintain a database of people who are in a position and are willing to be off assistance, either immediately during the crisis itself, or later in relief and rehabilitation.
We will put people wanting to contribute financially to victims in direct contact with NGOs doing the same or the victims directly.
We will look for good samaritans who are willing to contribute towards medical expenses, post traumatic therapy requirements, and prosthesis requirements for those rendered disabled in such situations.
We will attempt to sponsor the education of the bereaved children by putting dedicated and serious citizens who wish to do so in direct contact with the bereaved family.
We have many hopes. And need all the help we can. And we need all the people who can help out to write in.
We need people with only a desire to help.
We're looking for those who can contribute skills at the times of crisis: Doctors, medically trained personnel, ex-army personnel, even anyone who has a vehicle and is willing to drive critically injured people to hospitals or ferry people from danger spots to safe zones. Anyone with a space that can be used as a refuge area for people stuck in times of natural calamities like floods or total power blackouts which renders the local train service dead, please do write in.

Over the next week, I will be posting links and numbers and names and where you can go if you want to help out. Right now, the first step is, donate blood.

Find out if there is a victim in your vicinity go personally to offer your condolences. Show you care. Because you do. And it could have been you.

All we need is a mail to detailing:
Your name:
Your contact details:
Your professional expertise:
In what way would you like to be of assistance: