Being held hostage is one of the most dangerous and terrifying situations to be in. While most people will never find themselves in one, there’s no denying the fact that there’s a small chance that it could happen.
You must be prepared and act in a way that will not put you at risk or aggravate the situation.
Mass Shootings and Hostage Situations
Knowing the difference between a hostage situation and a crazed gunman firing is crucial. In a situation where one or more gunmen are engaged in a mass shooting, your only options are to hide or run for your life.
Trying to take down the shooter will be highly dangerous because they may be wearing helmets and bulletproof vests. The gun that’s on rapid fire might cut you down in a second before you can even reach the shooter. Even if you managed to grab him, you might not be able to take him down unless you are well-trained – and most people aren’t.
So, running away or hiding is the best way to stay alive. Do not try to negotiate or appeal to these lunatics. In almost all cases, they will gun you down because their goal is to kill as many people as possible.
How to Act and React
In most cases of hostage situations, terrorists will try and gain control of the situation by rounding up all the hostages and subduing them. They usually will not kill the hostages because they may have other motives.
Hostages are leverage and can be used to negotiate for money or to be used to make a statement to the world. In most hostage situations, the first 30 seconds to a minute are the most crucial.
There will be panic, and the terrorists will be disorganized. Your goal will be to get away as fast as you can during this panic. Do not try to take down the terrorists on your own. Leave that to the professionals.
Escape as fast as you can and take whomever you can with you.
If you can’t escape, you’ll need to remain calm. Drawing attention to yourself is never a good idea. It will be a stressful situation, and everyone will be on edge.
Do not be aggressive or you may end up getting killed by the terrorists and used as an example to strike fear in the rest.
Keep your head and eyes low. Looking at your captors defiantly may make them view you as a threat. You want as minimal eye-contact as possible.
If you have any incriminating documents, etc. in your possession, get rid of them so that you won’t get in trouble when they search you. If you manage to hide your mobile phone, do not secretly try to make phone calls in the first few hours of captivity. The terrorists will be more alert, and you’ll be discovered.
As time goes on, depending on the situation, you may either be whisked away to a secondary location or will be held where you were caught while the terrorists negotiate with law enforcement on the outside.
During this process, if you can build rapport with the terrorists, do so. Do not argue with them. Subtly take their side and pretend to see their cause from their point of view. This will not only increase your chances of survival, but you’ll also be viewed as an ally.
This will increase your negotiating power and you can ask for little conveniences like water, food, blankets, etc.
Stay hydrated and keep an eye on the other hostages to make sure they’re comfortable. If anyone is showing signs of stress, reassure them. In a life or death situation like this, both hostages and captors are in a race against time.
The captors need their demands met quickly so that they can escape. The hostages want the traumatic event to end as soon as possible. Law enforcement who are outside monitoring the situation will be quickly and efficiently planning to diffuse the situation with minimal loss of life.
Everyone is stressed out and disasters can occur in a split second. Being level headed is crucial. Depending on how the situation plays out, either the captors surrender, or law enforcement launches a rescue attempt.
When this occurs, immediately drop to the floor and cover your head. There’s a common misconception that the terrorists will fire upon the hostages. This usually does not happen because they’re too busy dealing with law enforcement in a firefight.
Lie flat and do not move until it’s all over and you hear the police or rescuers telling everyone to get up. In a firefight, it’ll be very difficult to decide who is a terrorist and who is a hostage. You may accidentally get caught in the crossfire.
To survive a hostage situation, the key point to remember is that you should be calm and not do anything foolhardy. Real life rarely resembles what you see in the movies. You can’t be a John McClane and a hostage situation is not Die Hard.
Maintain a low profile, exercise common sense and wait for law enforcement to save everyone. Sooner or later, they usually do… and in any gunfight, they usually win because of their resources and manpower.
Your job is to look after yourself and if possible, those around you until the smoke clears and the gunfire ends. That’s the best you can do.