The thought of being effected by a terrorist attack or a hostage situation seems foreign to most people, or something that only happens in other parts of the world or on TV, news stories such as this show us we are not immune to these terrible things, nor can we do much to prevent them.
So our options are to hope Superman swoops in to save us, or to have prior knowledge of how to survive a situation like this should it arise. Here are our top ten tips we have compiled from experts in the field.
1. Run or Take Cover Immediately
At the first sign of an attack, Global Travel Security Specialists tell us your first mode of survival is to escape if at all possible. If in a school, mall or any other enclosed space, look for the quickest and safest escape route.
If you hear gunshots, run in the opposite direction of the sound or exit through a window if possible, and insist those around you do the same.
If running will expose you to more of a threat, take cover by barricading yourself into a closet, behind thick concrete barriers or hide behind the heaviest barrier you can find and stay there until help arrives. Be aware of exits around you, should the opportunity arise to safely run at any point.
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2. Stay Calm and Take Mental Notes
If you are unable to escape, and are taken hostage, your life will depend on staying calm. According to NYPD Detective Sergeant and Negotiator Wallace Zeins, the first 10-30 minutes of a hostage situation is known as the “panic reaction.”
The majority of hostages killed are killed during this initial phase. Stay calm to avoid creating panic in the captor and causing them to take more extreme action. Make mental notes of exits, details of your captor, and where they are carrying any weapons.
3. Look for Available Weapons
Look around you for items that can be used as a weapon should it become necessary to defend yourself.
Survival Life suggests items such as keys, ink pens or letter openers, a belt or tie, or heavier objects such as a fire extinguisher make good weapons and are easily found in any surrounding.
4. Be a Leader to Ward of Chaos
In chaotic situations, the most useful tool to keep the other hostages is to have a leader among them. By reading this article, and others like this one you may very well be the most qualified to instruct others of what to do.
Instruct other hostages to help create barricades, suitable places to hide, and to gather available weapons as mentioned above. Working as a team will help save lives and keep the chaos to minimum.
If taken hostage, do not act aggressively. The captor typically suffers from some sort of mental illness and feels unheard. The National Terror Alert Response Team says do not try to reason with them, and do not offer information about your heritage or religion.
Be a silent aspect of the situation rather than someone who creates more chaos, this can cause the captor to panic and take more extreme action. If you are allowed to speak with the police, only answer questions with yes or no, and only speak to the captor when you are spoken to directly.
6. Disclose Any Vital Medical Needs
No captor wants a sick hostage. Calmly inform your captor if you have any vital medications that could cause a medical emergency such as insulin or an inhaler.
A sudden medical emergency can create more extreme action to be taken by the captor out of panic when they feel they are losing control.
7. Build Trust
If your captor is talking to you, be very cooperative and respectful. Do not treat them like they are crazy and do not be aggressive.
Always treat them as though they are completely in control, but do not patronize them. If you are overly supportive they will feel like you are faking it and make them feel like they aren’t being taken seriously.
8. Use the “Stairway”
The Behavioral Change Stairway Model was developed by the FBI’s hostage negotiation unit and is a useful tool in building the rapport mentioned above. It is a five step process and proven to be very useful in resolving conflict.
a. Active Listening – As mentioned before, typically the captor is doing this because they want to be heard. Listen to what they have to say, and respond affirmatively with things like “yes, uh huh, ok, I understand, etc.” This lets your captor know you care what they have to say.
b. Empathy – Put yourself in your captor’s shoes. Look at the situation from their position and the role that influences from their background, religion, culture or mental illness may have had in bringing them to this point.
c. Rapport – Building rapport with your captor is an important aspect of this model. It is here that trust between the captor and hostage is established. Use language that conveys that you understand their perspective and empathize with them.
Repeat back to them what they are feeling and what their purpose is. This helps establish you as an ally instead of a threat.
d. Influence – Once trust is built, you can gently start offering problem solving solutions with the captor. Do not patronize them, but continue to repeat their objective back to them. Keep reminding them that you are on their side, and they are in control. Problem solve with them to find a peaceful resolution.
e. Behavioral Change – This is the resolution stage of the model. At this point, if successful, hostages may be released, and ideally the captor will peacefully come out with their hands up.
9. Stay Calm When Help Arrives
In the event that the police charge onto the scene, do not run to them. Stay hidden, calm and still. In the event of gunfire being exchanged, staying low to the ground will help prevent you from being hit by flying bullets.
In these high stress situations, it can be hard for authorities to tell the difference between hostages and captors. Keep your hands visible and stay as still as possible so that they know you are not a threat.
10. Be Prepared and Determined
The previous tips are all meant to help you avoid contact with your captor and to keep the situation under control and preserve your life, but be prepared to fight for your life if you have to.
Once you start fighting, do not stop until they do, use everything at your disposal as a weapon, and when you get the chance to run, keep running and do not look back.
You Are The Master of Your Fate
Knowledge is power. Often times these situations become violent due to panic and chaos. The best way to combat this is to be prepared and to have a plan in place in such event.
Share these tips with your loved ones and in the workplace to ensure that everyone is on the same page and prepared should this situation ever arise.
Staying calm is the most important, and having the knowledge of how to survive will help everyone to remain more calm and ensure a peaceful resolution to any situation.