Kidnapping – Handling of Hostage Situation & Role of the Corporate Security

A thought leader and an action catalyzer rolled into one – Anil Puri is a rare combination of a visionary, and one who has mastered the art of strategic and tactical thinking to the core. He has been using this combination to seed new ideas and to lead them to their implementation on-ground. This has been a consistent feature of his career. He has rich experience of approximately 35 years in corporate in diverse domains & from functional managerial level to apex as chairman of a corporate group. His acumen for handling crisis management has prompted him to share his exclusive and niche experiences. He will be discussing the topic in four distinct parts in separate articles; Part 1 – Hostage situation & ways to deal with it, Part 2 – Negotiation skills, Part 3 – How to survive an abduction or hostage situation, and finally in Part 4 – Role of the corporate security. He will take you through realistically at ground zero in visualization and response matrix through series of these four articles.


Hostage can best be defined as a person given to or forcibly and unlawfully held by a person, party or organization etc, as a security or pledge, or for ransom, release, exchange for prisoners or pending the fulfillment of an agreement etc.

Activity Pattern During Hostage Situation

  1. Before the incident: As with any scenario, planning is crucial. Of course, the circumstances of these incidents can vary so wildly that it’s difficult to prepare in any comprehensive way. Equally, you don’t want to spread fear among your staff by overplaying the likelihood of a hostage attack. However, a few general emergency strategies can be applied. Firstly, ensure that everyone knows where the nearest emergency exits are located and where they should regroup outside. Staff should evacuate immediately upon receiving an alert (ignoring possessions/ work), and should proceed in an orderly fashion out of the building. Secondly, you may like to create a series of code words for use in an emergency situation, which communicate very simply what is happening. In highrisk buildings or locations, the availability of panic buttons could also be an important precaution. Likewise, consider introducing security guards and/ or security screens. Thirdly, it is also worth thinking about incorporating advice on dealing with difficult customers into your staff training in order to prevent any situations from escalating out of control. We also need to understand what the customer has experienced prior to this point.
  2. During the incident: Staff will be looking to you for reassurance so you need to remain calm and controlled. Panicking will not help anyone. If you have a senior role, you have a responsibility to lead the team through this experience. But the people in your team could react in many different ways. Some may be angry, some frightened and some calm. Be flexible in your approach, but consistent with your messages. You don’t want rumours to start. It’s also important to keep a close eye on your staff because an initial shock reaction can quickly evolve into frustration. Guard against people who want to be a hero. Look out for anyone who seems angry and make sure they do not disappear out of sight. They might attempt to re-enter the room or building, but that would be an extremely dangerous situation, which must be left to the professionals. If you’re in contact with the hostage-taker (at least before emergency services arrive), stay calm and agree to everything they ask. Only provide them with information that is essential. Attempting to talk them out of it at this stage could inflame the situation. Just as everyone else should try to keep their cool, it is vital that the intruder is kept as calm as possible. It is probable that this is the first time that they have done something of this nature, which means that they’re likely to be stressed too. Their adrenalin will be pumping, but you don’t want them to do anything rash. As HR director, you’ll be expected to gather information, do a head count and keep your staff together in one place. Act as an intermediary between police and employees by sharing information if possible, in order to reassure your team that the situation is under control. Try not to let anyone leave in the early stages. You need to keep the situation contained and controlled. Equally, ensure that no one talks to the media at this point. Any media coverage driven by panic or sensationalism could again be inflammatory. Also remember that dealing directly with hostage takers is a delicate skill and leave it to police specialists.
  3. After the incident: Individuals respond to trauma in different ways so assess each person on an individual basis rather than as a group. Try to gauge each individual’s state of mind and how they feel about work. Some will feel that continuing to come into work is the best way forward, while others may want a few days’ leave. However, it’s important that counseling is made available to everyone – not just in the short-term, but in the longterm too. One thing that we know about post-traumatic stress is that it may not become immediately apparent. A stressful experience may bring feelings or memories to light immediately or it may be months later. Around one in three people will develop post-traumatic stress disorder, but nearly everyone will display symptoms of post-traumatic stress for the first month. Such symptoms include depression, feelings of guilt, anxiety, anger and grief. Staff may experience flashbacks/ nightmares, avoidance, numbing and a feeling of being ‘on-guard.’ The issue is that life threatening episodes undermine a belief that life is fair and safe and that someone is secure. It is vital to look out for these symptoms and allow employees time to talk about how they’re feeling. They need to be allowed to ask questions and, most importantly, to get back to their normal life and routine. Although an unlikely occurrence, it is still extremely important to review what staff protection policies are in place for hostage situations. I doubt the personnel at any given point ever thought that they would be faced with such a scenario as they arrived at work on that day in morning. Consider this – while most companies these days have excellent security in place to safeguard computers, servers and other assets, it is often the staff who are forgotten. So just ask yourself – what’s more important – a company laptop or the chief executive, a material piece or the human capital?

Tips To Handle Hostage Situation

Being held hostage is definitely a terrifying experience. You don’t know if rescue is on the way or if the hostage takers are kind enough to spare your life. However, you need to keep in mind that your actions will determine your fate. You can always save your life as long as you know how to handle a hostage situation. Here are some tips on how you can properly handle a hostage situation:

  1. Think rationally. Measure realistic and unrealistic moves before you do it.
  2. Stay calm. To gain the clear thinking of how you can survive this situation.
  3. Observe details. From the very start of the captivation, be keen to observe on a lot of details that may help you plan an escape and apprehend the kidnappers later on like who the captors are, how many they are, what weapons they have, the motives of the kidnappers.
  4. Check your physical state. Self-examine whether you are wounded or not, and determine if you can go for a successful escape or if you first need some time to rest.
  5. Understand the situation you are in. Your decision for escaping or not, it greatly depends on what is the motive for the kidnapping. If for example you are abducted for an exchange of a ransom, then escape is not much of an issue since the captors will only need you alive. However, in instances that some terrorist, serial killer, or rapist kidnaps you, one really need to think of an effective way out.
  6. Show the abductors that you are worthy of their respect. Don’t cry or show them that you are weak. Stop thinking that you are in a movie. Don’t beg and never ever challenge them to do anything especially if it is your safety, which is at risk.
  7. Cooperate with the abductors within reason. Don’t threaten your captors or even insult them. If you can, talk to your abductors and build a little rapport even with one of them. In that case, if you establish even a little bond, the captors will be hesitant to hurt you. Most importantly, don’t try to escape until the time is right. An unsuccessful escape will only lead to a lot of troubles.
  8. Follow the instructions of rescuers if ever an operation is going on. In this case, the authority will not put you at risk. So obey them and keep calm.


Keep in mind that most of the time, your life lies not on your captors’ hands but on your very own hands. Yes, you might be in a movie-like scenario but remember not to play hero at all times and be cautious about your acts. Handling hostage situation is very complex and needs specialized training & skills and master mind which can tactfully engage them in negotiations while thinking two steps ahead of the kidnappers. It also mandates self-discipline on part of hostage to avoid violence, torture & loss of life in the hands of the kidnappers.


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