Justin Priestley GM is Director at Aon Crisis Consulting and is a former bomb disposal expert with the British Army.
A former bomb disposal expert with the British Army explains the steps prominent and wealthy families should take to protect themselves against kidnap and extortion
Families who own and run successful businesses are often in the limelight more than they would like – and that attention can bring with it a host of unwanted problems. Kidnap, and the emotional distress that it brings, are high on the list of these problems, and wealthy families should seriously consider the extent to which they require both protection – in the form of security – and insurance against the financial consequences of a kidnapping. There are also steps that can be taken to help with the emotional trauma of kidnapping.
The most important step is to assess the level of threat faced by your family. Questions you will need to ask yourself include:
- Are you a particularly prominent family, often photographed in the media?
- Do you have any business interests in politically or morally sensitive areas?
- Do you have any security arrangements already in place?
- How predictable are your movements?
Answering questions such as these will help to assess your family's vulnerability to kidnap or extortion events. A qualified kidnap risk consultant will help to assess your family's exposure to these threats.
Examining the threat
It is important to assess the nature of the threat you face. The three factors to consider are the kidnappers' intentions, their capability to carry out these intentions, and their credibility – how much can you believe the things they say?
Some examples of how these variables work can be taken from real-life kidnap scenarios. In a typical kidnap in Kashmir kidnappers are criminals who are motivated by financial gain and who generally settle within 14 days for a much lower sum than they had originally demanded. The Colombian Marxist rebel group FARC, by contrast, are politically motivated and, as a result, negotiations can take many months, if not years. In both instances the kidnappers represent a highly credible threat, in that they belong to known criminal or terrorist organisations that will carry out the threats they make against your family.
In western Europe, the risk of kidnap is lower than in South America or India, and typically comes from Eastern European organised criminal gangs. Again, the best solution is to approach a qualified kidnap risk consultant who will carry out an assessment of the threat your family faces.
Once these two elements have been assessed, you have a full picture of the risks your family faces, both in terms of their vulnerability and the threats posed by kidnappers.
Additional steps that can be taken to protect your family against kidnap, include personal and property security protocols and, in the event of a kidnap, hostage negotiation and post-traumatic counselling. If the threat of kidnap is real then it would be wise to consider investing in an insurance product that protects against the financial fall-out of a kidnapping.
Personal and property security protocols
All personal security advice should be specifically related to the individuals concerned and their respective lifestyles. Without entering into exhaustive detail, there are five basic principles of security to be followed:
- Awareness: be aware that a security threat does exist, and be prepared to react rapidly if the security situation changes.
- Low profile: criminals will not normally target people unless they have come to public attention in some way. As far as possible, try not to attract unnecessary attention to yourself.
- Unpredictability: families should take care not to stick to a rigid routine that will allow criminals the opportunity to stage a kidnap. Always vary routes, times of departure and modes of transport if possible.
- Communications: make sure all family members have contact details for family and police/emergency forces. As well as a mobile phone, carry a phone card if they are in use in your country of residence.
- Security layers: adopt all necessary security measures and maintain these measures. Make sure your security is in place 24 hours a day, seven days a week, since it will always be attacked at its weakest point.
Should your family ever be the victims of a kidnapping, it is essential to employ trained hostage negotiators to help you handle the situation. Hostage negotiators understand both the psychology and tactics of criminals and extremist groups and are trained to negotiate freedom for your family members without giving in to excessive demands from their captors.
Following a kidnap, both victims and their families will need psychological counselling to deal with the trauma of the event. Kidnap risk control companies can work in conjunction with counselling services to help your family deal with the emotional stress of a kidnapping.
Apart from the terrible emotional costs of these events, kidnaps can also be very costly, with both ransoms, employing negotiators and post-traumatic stress counselling proving very taxing financially to families. Working with kidnap risk consultants will both minimise the risk of an event occurring in your family and can assist you in arranging insurance against kidnap to protect your family's wealth.