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Table of Contents

Note: This is a beta version of the course. We will move to the final version (including graphics and discussion questions) if we see there is sufficient interest.

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Lesson 6 Stabilization

If you are abducted, your goal is to survive. To survive, you must adjust. You must try to maintain emotional control as quickly as possible after the capture. Maintaining emotional control helps you keep control of your mental abilities such as situational awareness, judgment, and descision-making skills. Remember, most hostages survive an abduction. After the initial shock of capture wears off, both hostage takers and victims stabilize their emotions and begin to plan for the future. The terrorists may divulge information about themselves, their organization, their goals, and objectives. They may share their demands and may even discuss roles and responsibilities that the hostages have. The hostages begin making an emotional transition from being a victim to being a survivor. But to survive, you must be alert and cautious. Remember that hostage-takers have used “sleepers” in their hostage operations. A sleeper is really a terrorist posing as a hostage to inform on the real hostages or draw out security personnel. Be careful who you trust.

Situational Awareness

If you are blindfolded and gagged during transportation, concentrate on sounds, smells, direction of movement, passage of time, conversations of the hostage-takers, and any information that might be useful. For example, you might hear train sounds that might indicate you are near a train station or going by railroad tracks. Hearing a ship’s horn would indicate you are crossing a river or near a body of water. Try and draw a mental map of where you are. If you can hear the hostage-takers, try to determine the language they are speaking, key phrases, goals of the abduction, names, weapons carried, and directions taken, such as “make a left at [famous landmark].” Information collected over time might allow you to guess the possible route and the area where they have taken you. All this information will be very useful if you are released or if you escape while the hostage-takers are still holding other hostages.


To avoid confrontations with any hostage-taker, you should not carry documents or other sensitive or potentially embarrassing items in your briefcase or on your person. If taken hostage, you must be prepared to explain telephone numbers, addresses, names, and any other items carried at the time of capture. If asked for identification, show your tourist passport. Dispose of items such as your military ID and official passport as soon as possible. If you are identified as member of the military, you could be perceived as a threat to the hostage-taker’s activities. If interrogated, adopt a simple, tenable position and stick with it. Delay identifying yourself as military, but do not lie when asked if you are in the military. Rather, you should attempt to skirt the question; i.e., if you are a formal school instructor, reply “I am a teacher.” You should try to convince your captors that they have kidnapped the wrong person. The terrorists may not be convinced, but don't give up. This delaying effort serves only to maximize survival during the initial stages of captivity and reduce the terrorist’s apprehension that you might be a threat to their activities. Most casualties among hostages occur during the process of capture and initial internment.


David L. Heiserman, Editor

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Revised: June 06, 2015