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December 30, 1999
Caught on a hijacked plane? Relax
Josy Joseph in New Delhi
What is the ideal way for a hostage to deal with a hijacking? According to experts though there are no concrete steps that can see a victim through a hijack, some precautions "are advisable."
The US State Department's 'Hostage Survival and Hijacking Survival Guidelines' list some of the dos and don'ts. The guidelines are broken into three parts:
*Precautions to be taken before boarding an aircraft.
A traveller should make sure that his/her affairs are in order before undertaking an air journey. Special care should be taken to prepare an up-to-date will, insurance policy and a power of attorney for the spouse. If these things are taken care of, then the individual, in event of an hijack, can concentrate all of his/her efforts on the one thing of paramount importance - survival.
To increase one's ability to survive, the traveller must realise that there are certain dynamics involved in a hijacking and he/she must understand how these interacting forces affect the end result.
Each individual involved in an incident of this type will have an impact on the eventual outcome, and one wrong move by either a victim or a perpetrator could easily result in a disaster rather than a peaceful conclusion to the incident.
The first thing that a traveller should remember is that he/she is not the only one who is scared and nervous. The perpetrator too is in the same emotional state.
Fear can trigger a disaster, and it does not take much for some individual to set off a spate of violence.
Violence in a hijacked plane will be directed at the person(s) who are perceived to be a threat or a nuisance to the hijackers.
The physical takeover of the aircraft by the hijackers may be characterised by noise, commotion, and possibly shooting and yelling. It can also be quiet and methodical with little more than an announcement by a crew member.
The first few minutes of the hijacking are crucial, and during these moments one should stay calm and encourage others around to do the same. Remember that the hijackers are extremely nervous and possibly scared too. Comply with your captors' directions. If shooting occurs, keep your head down or drop to the floor.
Once the plane is taken over, the passengers are likely to be separated by citizenship, sex, race, etc. The passports may be confiscated and the carry-on luggage ransacked.
The hijackers may then enter into negotiations with concerned authorities, and the talks could last indefinitely. The crew may be forced to fly the aircraft to yet another destination. During the negotiations, the passengers may be used as a bargaining tool, lives may be threatened, or a number of passengers may be released in exchange for fuel, landing/departure rights, food, etc." This will be the longest phase of the hijacking.
The following steps should be taken during this phase:
*If you are told to keep your head down or maintain a particular body position, talk yourself into relaxing into that position. You may need to stay that way for
The last phase of the hijacking is resolution, be it by use of a rescue team or an agreement through negotiations.
The characteristics of a hostage rescue force introduction into the aircraft will be similar to the hijacker's takeover - noise, chaos, possibly shooting.
*If you hear shots fired inside or outside the aircraft, immediately take a protective position put your head down or drop to the floor.
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