How to Act If You're Kidnapped
Strategies for trying to stay safe and recognize opportunities to escape from a kidnapping; advice from Kroll's Kelly McCann
By Todd Datz
December 01, 2005 — CSO — Frustration creeps into Kelly McCann's voice as he talks about the lack of smarts many companies show when it comes to travel security. Particularly regarding kidnapping, which is an unfortunately common practice in many countries.
McCann is senior VP of security operations and training at Kroll and consults with Fortune 500 companies on anti-abduction training. (His resume includes stints providing expertise to the Air Force Anti-Terrorism Specialty Team Force Protection Instructors and the Office of Naval Research in Close Quarters Battle.) He ticks off some common invitations to would-be kidnappers: drivers holding up signs in the airport with the executive's name and company; execs who always arrive on the same flight, stay in the same hotel and use the same routes to get from the hotel to their workplace; or laminated business cards attached to luggage.
Of course, the logical first step in dealing with kidnapping is to prevent the kidnapping in the first place. That means not being time-and-place predictable, limiting the number of people who have access to your itinerary, and arranging for a security detail if necessary. Be paranoid: "Assume the office or plant you're visiting has been penetrated by people adversarial to your interests," says McCann.
Even with these precautions, McCann advises clients to have a last will and testament, assign power of attorney and develop a prearranged distress signal—a phrase, a number—with members of your family or company. "If it's a kidnap-for-ransom, there has to be something that says, Yes, this is a real event," he says.
In a Hostage Situation: Kelly McCann's Advice
Now the nitty-gritty: You find yourself taken hostage. In the chaos surrounding the kidnapping, which is likely when youre in the most danger, the attackers are sometimes vulnerable, McCann says. "If you visualize ahead of time—"I'm going to decide at a critical moment that no one has direct physical control over me'—you might literally be able to haul ass," he says. If you're not thinking that way (most people probably aren't), then its best to comply and not fight.
Once taken, you'll usually be brought to one or more transitory spots before arriving at long-term internment. McCann points out that those intermediate locations may provide opportunities to escape as well. If running away is still not an option, he says, it's important to remember that people are working to get you released. "The feeling of hopelessness works completely against you," he says.
- Kelly McCann, senior VP of security operations and training at Kroll