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Private Security Response to a Hostage-taking Incident

The first responder at a barricaded suspect and/or hostage-taking situation plays a critical role in deciding the ultimate resolution or outcome.  In most manufacturing and industrial settings, that first responder will be, a representative of internal private security, and in many instances that security person will not have been trained in the best practices for response to such a situation.

Site security personnel must have a clear understanding of the changing dynamics of the barricaded suspect and/or hostage situation and possess a high degree of knowledge about their critical role, in what will no doubt become a multi-agency response to a crisis situation. Barricaded subject and hostage situations can vary to a great extent based on the impetus and motives of the barricaded individual or the hostage-taker, the first responders knowledge, skills and abilities, his or her beliefs, values and biases, and the specific conditions and circumstances contiguous with the incident.  However, there are some basic facts that apply to all barricaded subject/hostage situations.

In most instances, the subject does not want to kill anyone. Although it does happen, very likely the barricaded subject or hostage taker has experienced some form of crisis in their life, which they haven’t been able to cope with. The role of the first responder or negotiator is to tap into their psyche to determine how to move them away from seeing violence as their only option. The subject is operating from a position of weakness and incident is really a desperate measure to attempt to regain some control in their life or power over the situation.  The hostage-taker has a need for something to occur or wants to obtain something tangible. This can be as simple as money, a guarantee of personal safety or a vehicle for transportation or it can involve complicated religious and/or political goals, such as the release so-called political prisoners.

In most incidents, the target of the hostage-taker is not the hostage themselves; it is usually a third party (a person, a company or a government) that can provide whatever it is the hostage-taker wants or make something occur that the subject wants to occur.  The hostage is nothing more than a bargaining chip. That said, they may have symbolic value such as the Israeli Wrestling Team at the 1972 Munich Olympics, but the true target was the Israeli government and although the hostages were Israeli athletes, the hostages themselves could have been anyone that the subject believed had a symbolic enough attraction to cause a government reaction.

A site security, first responder, may find themselves in a complicated and stressful position of having to manage a crisis situation before other trained emergency service responders arrive.  The first responder must amidst all of the clamber and chaos, remember that time is on their side and those first few moments of contact with the subject should be an attempt to establish a purposeful development of rapport between perpetrator and negotiator and, to a lesser extent, between perpetrator and hostages.

The top priority is always that of ensuring the immediate safety of everyone involved.