Corporate kidnapping is a very real
threat that companies face. David Honour explores the subject.
kidnapping hit the headlines in June with the abduction of sixty
gas pipeline workers in a remote area of the Peruvian Andes. The
kidnap gang demanded a $1m ransom from the workers’ company,
The Peruvian case was unusual in that it involved
a large number of victims. Much more common is the kidnap of individual
company executives or members of their families. This can be for
attempted financial gain though the demanding of a ransom or to
bring political or social issues to the attention of a wider audience.
Companies have a duty-of-care to protect employees
who may be working or travelling to areas where the kidnap risk
is high. It also makes good business continuity sense. Too often
business continuity planning seems to focus upon IT and communications
systems and the availability of data. Human resource aspects of
business continuity are often neglected; but people are mission
critical business assets that need protecting.
There are many measures that firms can take
to protect employees against the risk of kidnap. They can be summed
up under the following broad headings:
Awareness and information, Security, Response and Insurance.
AWARENESS AND INFORMATION
The first aspect of this is making employees aware of the kidnap
risk that they and their families face. At-risk staff members should
be identified and should be fully briefed as to the threat. They
should receive training in the personal security measures that they
can take and in defensive actions that can be taken to reduce the
risk of kidnap and in response to a kidnap scenario.
Information should be gathered about the kidnap
threat-level in the countries and regions that employees will be
based in or travelling to. There are specialist companies available
to assist in this area. Factors to consider are the general social
and political risk factors at work in the area; risks raised by
the nationality of the employee (for example, US employees may be
more at risk in Saudi Arabia than Saudi employees); and specific
threats raised by the company’s activities (for example, companies
involved in ethically sensitive projects may engender an enhanced
risk of kidnap).
Both personal security and facility security measures should be
taken to help reduce the kidnap risk.
The US Joint Chiefs of Staff has published
a useful guide on personal protection measures against terrorism
(1). It recommends the following general security measures which
are also highly relevant to the issue of kidnap:
* Instruct your family and associates not to
provide strangers with information about you or your family.
* Avoid giving unnecessary personal details to information collectors.
* Be alert to strangers who are on government [business] property
for no apparent reason. Report all suspicious persons loitering
near your resident or office; attempt to provide a complete description
of the person and/or vehicle to police or security.
* Vary daily routines to avoid habitual patterns. If possible, fluctuate
travel times and routes to and from work.
* Refuse to meet with strangers outside your work place.
* Always advise associates or family members of your destination
when leaving the office or home and the anticipated time of arrival.
* Don’t open doors to strangers.
* Memorize key phone numbers—office, home, police, security,
* Be cautious about giving out information regarding family travel
plans or security measures and procedures.
* If you are overseas, learn and practice a few key phrases in the
native language, such as “I need a policeman, doctor,”
This list is not exhaustive and, as already
mentioned, all at-risk employees should be given access to specialist
Security measures should be taken to protect
facilities; corporate premises and sites as well as employees’
own homes. The need for access control systems, window bars and
grilles, CCTV, alarms, perimeter fencing and external lighting should
all be assessed and all doors, windows and locks should be checked
for suitability. The use of guard dogs or security personnel should
also be considered and it may be even thought appropriate to equip
an internal room as a ‘panic room’ (made famous by the
recent film of the same name), which is especially strengthened
to withstand external attack.
Should the worst happen and a kidnap attempt proves successful,
how should the victim respond?
Security specialist Asset
Security Managers Ltd offers the following advice:
* Do not attempt escape unless there is an
extremely good chance of your survival. It is much safer to be submissive
and obey your captors.
* Try to establish a relationship with your captors and get to know
them. Kidnappers are less likely to harm you if they respect you.
* Exercise without fail regularly every day.
* Never refuse food, no matter how poor its quality.
* Try to insist on access to a local daily paper.
* Invent mind-games to keep yourself mentally alert.
* In the event of a rescue try and determine the safest place to
* Do not attempt to negotiate as this may well interfere with what
others are doing on your behalf.
No attempt to rescue the employee should be
made by the company. This should be left to the appropriate authorities.
For companies at risk of corporate kidnapping
incidents, kidnap response should be a scenario built into crisis
management plans so that the correct actions are quickly taken following
an incident and the appropriate specialists invoked. Regular exercises
should be conducted so that any gaps in the plans can be identified
and filled and so that all crisis team members become familiar with
the correct procedures.
Finally, there are many insurance schemes around that provide cover
for the risk of corporate kidnap. Where there is a significant kidnap
threat these are worth investing in. They normally cover costs such
* Loss of money paid out as a result of a threat to kill or injure
an insured person.
* Reasonable expenses incurred in the investigation, negotiation
or payment of a covered loss.
* Reward payments which lead to the arrest and conviction of parties
responsible for the kidnapping.
* Reasonable interest incurred on a loan obtained to pay a covered
* Travel expenses incurred in connection with a covered ransom or
(1) JS Guide 5260: Service Member’s Personal Protection Guide:
A Self-Help Handbook to Combating Terrorism.
This article was first published in Enterprise
Risk magazine. David Honour is editor of Continuity
3rd October 2003 •Region: Worldwide •Type:
Article •Topic: BC
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