Correctional health: Hostage survival


The prison hospital is seen by inmates as a soft target for hostage-taking. The following has been identified by the UN that can enhance your ability to survive such a hostage-taking event.

– Resisting hostage-taking can be dangerous. The chances are good that you will be injured (even fatally)
– The first 45 minutes are the most dangerous. Follow the instructions of your captors. They are very psyched up during the first hour.
– Try to relax. You will feel anxious and humiliated. Adapt to your situation.
– Don’t try an be a hero. Confronting your captors can cause a violent reaction from your captors.
– Keep a low profile. Don’t visibly study your captors, but do make mental notes on their mannerisms, clothes and rank structure.
– Be conscious of your body language and speech. Listen to what the captors say.
– Appear uninterested in what is going on around you. Read a book or sleep.
– Keep your mind mentally active.
– Ask the captors when you need something.
– Try and build a rapport with your captors. Talk about things of mutual interest. If you irritate them, stop.
– Hostages can undergo the “Stockholm syndrome”. This presents with the hostages starting to identify with their captors.
– You may be asked to sign “confessions” by your captors, stating that your organisation is the cause of the hostage-taking. You can decide whether to sign or not.
– Exercise daily.
– You may lose appetite. Eat and drink water to keep your strength up.
– Do not indicate to hostage-takers that you recognise them
– Never beg, plead or cry. They must see you as worthy of compassion and mercy.
– If you serve as negotiator, convey messages correctly.
– Escape only if you are sure you will be successful.
– Emphasize that as a health care worker you are neutral
– If there is a rescue attempt by force, drop to the ground, cover your head
– Go for stress debriefing after the incident to prevent post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
– Personal opinion: If you are certain they are going to kill you, fight like a mad man for your life