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Taken – Surviving a Kidnapping or Hostage Situation

It is one of the scariest scenarios most people can imagine.  You are sleeping in your home or hotel and men in masks grab you.  Maybe you are walking down a back alley when a van pulls up and the door slides open. Perhaps you are simply at work and a disgruntled employee returns to take the whole group hostage.  Any of these situations is a nightmare.

Despite being in a hostage situation, there are specific actions that you can take to get out of this safely.  People who do not survive hostage situations usually make some major mistakes. This is not an action movie, so do not try to be a hero. In this article, I will cover ways to be rescued, ways to escape, and ways to help catch the criminals after the fact.

The most important fact I can state is that most captives make it home safely. Also the longer that you stay captive, the more likely it is that you will see freedom again. Trying to escape should be a last resort. As a general rule, you never want to attempt an escape unless you are close to 100% sure that you will succeed.

One of the only times that it makes sense to attempt escape is when you are first being abducted.  It is also one of the most dangerous moments you will face.  If you are up against several men with guns, fighting them off probably will not happen. However, you can draw attention to yourself and hope that people nearby will take action or report the incident.  If you are up against just one assailant, your odds of success are much better.

Despite the intensity of the situation, you have to immediately regain composure. At the very first moment you realize you are being abducted, the observation process must begin. It is difficult to be observant when the adrenaline is pumping, so stay calm. Note the color, make, model, and plate number of the vehicle.  If put in the trunk of a car, try to find the emergency release lever.

As the vehicle pulls away, you may be blindfolded, drugged, or knocked unconscious. If the abductors let you remain conscious, use all your senses to note where they may be taking you.  Note any turns the vehicle takes and how many seconds pass between each turn. Listen for railroad tracks, car horns, air traffic, church bells, or lawnmowers. If you can remember these details, it could help you determine your location.

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You may have to wait until you arrive at your destination, but start observing your captors as soon as possible.  How many are there? Are they armed?  Do they wear masks? Are they in good physical condition?  Do they appear calm or frazzled?  Are they professionals? Are they military?  Do they speak with an accent or in a foreign language?

Once you are at your final destination, you can observe even more about your captors.  Try to determine who is in charge.  Notice where they congregate.  Pay attention to time of day and routines. If you can look at the sun through a window or view shadows cast near windows, you can estimate the time of day.  Look for times when there are fewer people guarding you or times when they are exhausted or drunk.

You also need to observe the physical details of your location.  Is it somebody’s home or is it an abandoned building?  Where are the doors and windows?  Are they locked?  What floor are you on?  Are there any weapons left unattended? Are there alarms or cameras? These are all pieces of information that could help you escape or could be used to catch the criminals later.

It is important that you assess your physical condition as well.  Were you injured in the abduction? Are you in need of any vital medication that is not on you?  Do you have anything in your pockets that could be used as a weapon or to cut your bindings? Do you have your cell phone? You may be loose in a locked room, tied with rope, wrapped with tape, or bound with zip ties.  Are your bindings tied tight, or do you have some room to move? Are you on the ground or in a chair?  These observations would be essential to any escape attempt.

The next challenge is to try and determine the motives behind your capture.  You could have been taken for ransom or for political reasons; however, you may be dealing with a paranoid psychopath.  If they took you for a logical reason, then they will want to keep you alive.  That is a huge advantage.  Bide your time and wait it out.  If you think your captors intend to kill you, start devising an escape plan.

It is important that you carefully try to engage with your captives.  You want to calmly attempt to develop a bond without agitating them.  If they are paranoid, they may see this as manipulation and respond with violence. Use caution. Never discuss sensitive topics like their motives, religion, or politics. Also, listen carefully to every word said to you and amongst themselves.  Names are of particular interest.  Watch their body language.  This can tell a very specific story.

An easy way to do this is to talk about family. This can sometimes create empathy with the captors.  Never get aggressive or criticize the captor.  Also, never give them any information that could hurt your situation or could lead to them abducting other people. Humbly ask them for a small favor like a glass of water or a warmer blanket.  Continue to do this periodically without seeming needy.  If you follow direction and develop some trust, they may let their guard down.

Make sure you maintain your humanity and some level of respect with the men holding you.  Never beg for your life, try to make a deal, or cry.  These actions make it easier for the captors to kill you if they have a reason.  You want to have the attitude that you are going to cooperate, but that you are not afraid. Your captors will not value your dignity if you do not.

If you are with other hostages, try to communicate with them.  This can keep your spirits up and possibly give you a chance to develop an escape plan.  You may have to use code or symbols to avoid your captors separating you.  Also, try to never stand out from the group.  You do not want these criminals to see you as a threat and become violent.

Find ways to keep your mind sharp.  Sitting in a cell or tied to a chair for days or weeks will numb the mind.  If an opportunity for escape comes along, you may not be ready for it.  Think about the lyrics to songs or do math problems in your head.  My personal favorite is to play 18 holes of golf in my mind.  If you plan and execute each shot on your favorite course, it is a great way to stay sharp.

Focus on keeping your body fit as well.  Sitting in one spot for several weeks will atrophy muscles and make it more difficult to run if given the chance.  Do pushups, sit-ups, dips, or any calisthenics that you can think of. Use any items in your area to create resistance such as a bed or chair. Even if you are tied to a chair, you can flex and relax specific muscle groups and get a good workout.

If you notice a drastic change in the behavior or mood of your captors, this can be a big red flag.  When they appear confused or frustrated, take notice.  If they become more violent or release other hostages and ignore you, that is also a concern; conversely, if they stop feeding you or stop wearing their masks you need to escape immediately.  These are signs that they may intend to kill you.

Knowing a few tricks to get out of bindings is a good idea.  You can buy a small lock pick set for less than $20 and practice picking locks.  Even if you do not have the set with you, keep a small pin or paperclip hidden on your body to pick locks.  Use friction from your boot laces to rub against zip ties and break the plastic.  Use any sharp object to gradually cut through rope.  If your hands are bound with duct tape in front of your body, put your arms over your head and pull outwards as you slam them down.  This should split the tape.  Remember that these are all a last resort.

When rescue finally does come, it is another very dangerous moment. Try to get on the ground and take cover.  Always follow any directions given to you by your rescuers.  They are still trying to discern who the bad guys are.  Do not give them a reason to use violence.  Do not run for the door.  Try not to get upset if they initially put handcuffs on you.  They have to secure the area before they know everybody is safe.  Use your head and you will get through it just fine. For a video on what this might look like, please see http://modernsurvivalonline.com/video-of-the-week-hostage-rescue-by-surefire/

You probably recall seeing hostage situations and kidnappings in movies and on television.  There is always that one hostage that stands up to try and negotiate with the masked men.  There is often also that security guard that tries to be a hero.  Typically, both of these people are killed. That is probably quite accurate.  You see kidnap victims curse and yell at their assailants, and normally they get smacked in the face.  This is also an accurate depiction.

Keep a cool head, keep your mouth shut, and be patient.  Whether you intend to wait for police or you plan to run, being patient is key.  If you rush it and do not wait for the perfect opportunity, it could end very badly.  Remember that the vast majority of these criminals are motivated by something other than killing you.  They want everybody to live, and they want to end the situation peacefully and successfully. Never do anything stupid to change that motivation.  Give it some time and everybody goes home.

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About Ryan Dotson

Ryan Dotson
My name is Ryan Dotson and I am a survivalist, prepper, writer, and photographer. I grew up in the Ozark Mountains and in the foothills of the Pocono Mountains. My interest in survival started when I was in Boy Scouts and continued as my father, uncle, and grandfather taught me to hunt and fish. In the last few years I have started taking on survival challenges and have started writing about my experiences. I currently live in Mid-Missouri with my wife Lauren and three year old son Andrew.

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