Kidnapping; the employer’s problem


May 2017


Our last article on Kidnapping began by mentioning the brutal gang of Abu Sayaff in the Philippines. It is nice to record that Abu Rami (real name Muammar Askali), one of the more sadistic members of this gang was killed by the Philippine security forces last month, along with some of his henchmen. Kidnappers do not always win.

Kidnapping by definition takes its victims by surprise. However, some preparation can enable the experience to be endured with less distress. Make no mistake, there is nothing that will make it ‘easy’. As we said in the last article, the best way to deal with kidnapping is not to be kidnapped in the first place. This time we shall deal with what a company should do to ensure it is properly prepared.

‘Failing to plan is planning to fail’, this old adage applies to kidnapping as much as it does to anything else, in most cases more so. A kidnap is a truly harrowing experience for all involved, it goes beyond the victim. It is costly emotionally, financially and possibly reputationally. It does not happen as a date saved in the calendar. When it happens the reactions will be mixed, but they will be ones of shock and surprise, often turning to desperation.

For an employer there are a number of different ‘players’ that will become involved. Each will have different agendas and requirements, and different levels of emotional involvement. They include: the victim, the employer, the family, the authorities in both the home country and the victim’s location and finally, the kidnappers. The initiative starts with the kidnappers. Most of the others’ intention is a successful resolution, but their definitions of what that is may differ. Information becomes a precious commodity.

The key thing for the employer is to have thought through the problem before it happens. Having a kidnap contingency plan in place beforehand is no different from having an effective Resilience Plan, and just as important. People need to know what is going to be done, and what their part will be in it. They need to be practised and confident, as when things happen the stress levels will be high. There will be competing pressures from all those involved and the differences between them will add to that pressure.

Kidnap preparation can follow the same methodology as preparation for other contingencies and business resilience. There is no need for a completely new set of systems. The structures and procedures already in place for those other issues can be adapted to cater for this contingency. That way you can ‘keep it simple’. This will also allow for more effective use of time when training staff for crisis management.

Kidnap is something of a specialist field. There is no easy solution and what works in one culture may be less successful in another. The key to effective handling at the management level is to know as much about how the problem may manifest itself as you can, then to plan around that.

Specifics on Kidnap preparation to follow in our next blog on the subject…

Read our previous article on Kidnapping.