10 Tips To Staying Alive During A Hostage Situation

    The physical takeover may be characterized by noise, commotion, and possibly shooting and yelling, or it may be quiet and methodical. These first few minutes of the becoming a hostage are crucial.


    By James Copenhaver


    Early in my undercover narcotics career, I had a very close call with a drug violator that we were investigating. My responsibilities were to act in an undercover capacity and conduct narcotic investigations on drug violators. Undercover being the key word – as I certainly did not have the appearance of a police officer.


    I met with a drug suspect at the Wendy’s, on Alafaya and Colonial Drive. The objective was to meet this guy and purchase ½ Kilo of cocaine from him. I parked my vehicle, at which time the bad guy sat down in the front passenger seat of my car. Everything seemed normal and the deal appeared to be going good.


    Out of nowhere this suspect opens a large white and says, “I have my snake for good luck”. Needless to say I wanted to jump out of the car. He then said, “Joe (Snake name), says your going to rob me”, at which time he pulls a pistol from his waistband. He then pointed the gun at my head and I could see his finger on the trigger of the gun.


    I must say hundreds of thoughts raced through my mind, but staying calm and thinking clearly saved me from getting shot or even killed. In my case, I had a vanload of SWAT members to rescue me should something bad happen. During my time in the hot seat I was able to talk the guy down and things ended well. The bad guy went to prison for many years.


    Any person could become a hostage. The odds of that happening are extremely low compared to the number of people that have actually become hostages. However, there is always that slim chance that you could end up being at the wrong place at the wrong time. To survive, people should realize that there is certain dynamics involved in a hijacking, kidnapping or hostage taking and, to increase their ability to survive – they must understand how these interacting forces affect the end resul


    Fear can trigger a disaster, and it does not take much for some individuals to set off a defensive round of violence. Whether it is a demonstration of violence to reinforce a demand or to incite fear in the minds of the hostages, the violence will be motivated by fanaticism and/or fear and that violence will be directed at the person(s) who are perceived to be a threat or a nuisance to the hijackers. To minimize the possibility of being selected for special attention by the hostage taker(s) and to maximize your ability to survive a hostage situation, here are some guidelines to remember:


    1). The physical takeover may be characterized by noise, commotion, and possibly shooting and yelling, or it may be quiet and methodical. These first few minutes of the becoming a hostage are crucial. Stay calm, and encourage others around you to do the same. Remember that the hostage takers are extremely nervous and are possibly scared also.


    2). Comply with your captor(s) directions. If shooting occurs, keep your head down and drop to the floor. Remain alert.


    3). If you are told to keep your head down or maintain another body position, talk yourself into relaxing into the position; you may need to stay that way for some time. Prepare yourself mentally and emotionally for the long ordeal.


    4). Do not attempt to hide your identification or belongings.


    5). If addressed by the hostage takers, respond in a regulated tone of voice.


    6). Use your time wisely by observing the characteristics and behavior of the hostage takers, mentally attach nicknames to each one and notice their dress, facial features and temperaments.


    7). If you are singled out by the hijackers, be responsive but do not volunteer information.


    8). The characteristics of a rescue entry into the building will be similar to the hostage taker(s) takeover — noise, chaos, possibly shooting. If you hear shots fired inside or outside the building, immediately take a protective position — put your head down or drop to the floor.


    9). If instructed by a rescue force to move, do so quickly, putting your hands up in the air or behind your head; make no sudden movements. Once you are out of the building, follow the instructions of the rescue force or local authorities; if neither are there to guide you, move as quickly as possible away from the building and eventually move towards the awaiting police. 


    10). Expect to be treated as a hostage taker or co-conspirator by the rescue force; initially you will be treated roughly until it is determined by the rescue force that you are not part of the hostage taking team.


    Mr. Copenhaver has over 25 years of experience in law enforcement, having served as an undercover officer in the Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation – and also working in the Robbery, Homicide & Sex Crimes units. James has conducted investigations with the F.B.I. Special Task Force & United States Marshall Service. He now runs his own private investigation & security firm and appears regularly on CNN, HLN, Fox35, CF News 13 to provide expert commentary on current events. You can contact him by visiting his website, myfloridapi.com