tourist at the airport looks at the scoreboard

Kidnapping is big business overseas, both inside and outside the continental United States. As a result, predictability is one of the most dangerous behavior characteristics you can exhibit, especially abroad.

Customarily, beginning their attack at the airport, dedicated kidnappers will run surveillance outside your hotel, motel, or homestay and along your ground transportation routes.

Although such predators remain a significant threat to all travelers, most people are blissfully ignorant of the genuine and growing threat of kidnapping, child abductions, and sexual assault.

Afterward, this is the most common statement.

Such was the case of an American businessman working as an expatriate for a large US Corporation residing in Asia. To preserve anonymity, we will refer to him as Mr. Smith.

Having worked in the same area overseas for several months, Smith was viewed by adversarial foreign nationals as an affluent American because he chose to be very well-dressed, drive to work in a large vehicle and reside in a high-profile neighborhood. Every morning, Mr. Smith got up at precisely 6:15 AM, made coffee, got dressed, finished putting on his tie, and walked out the door by 7:00 AM. At that same time, he opened the driveway gate, backed out every day, turned left onto the same street, and took the same route to work. In later interviews, his neighbors said, “You could set your watch by this guy’s routine.” Such a clockwork routine is known in the protection world as predictable patterns.

His abductors surveilled Mr. Smith and his clockwork routine. Given such predictable patterns, they easily mapped out specific timing and locations where he was the most vulnerable. Unaware, Mr. Smith failed to recognize the threat or that he was being observed. His co-workers advised and encouraged him beforehand to vary his times and routes to and from work. Still, as his friends later told investigators, when asked about his predictability, Mr. Smith said, “Abduction? That will never happen to me.” Within less than three days of his declaration, his kidnappers had planned their attack, moved in, and scooped up their target. After which, he was never seen or heard from ever again.

An alternative and beneficial application of predictable patterns is an emergency action plan, where you employ a specific step-by-step plan in exigent circumstances.


Emergency Action Plans

All protection professionals, no matter where they work, use Emergency Action Plans (EAPs) to keep their protectee(s) safe and ready to move away from the threat, especially in evacuating a foreign country.

An overseas EAP is like your residential EAP but more robust as you may need to factor in transportation to the nearest airport, your passport, and the abandonment of personal belongings.

Planning for an evacuation is a way to prepare for emergencies, accidents, area-wide disasters, power outages, hazardous material spills, fires, bomb threats, civil disturbance, earthquakes, or other natural or manmade threats. Advance planning will help you to reduce the risk and loss of life. Everyone in your immediate family or group must be familiar with the EAP throughout their travel itinerary.

During an emergency, such as a widespread disaster or political or civil unrest, do you have a plan to get back to the hotel? What transportation is available to expedite getting you and your family safely to the airport? To whom do you plan to make that first phone call if your environment goes from bad to worse and you need to get out of the area in a hurry?

An EAP should be made up of Who, What, and Where. Starting with Who – in an emergency, Who should you contact? Should you call the local authorities? If so, what is that number? Should you call the US embassy, should you call your boss, should you call your best friend? Is there an alternate contact if you cannot connect with that person? If so, do you have that number?

The next part of your EAP is the What. If it hits the fan, do you press a red button? Do you send someone a text? Especially when traveling overseas, what would you do if you needed to get out of the country immediately?

Lastly, you should consider Where. Where should you go in the event of an emergency? Would you run and knock on the neighbor’s door? If you are in a hotel during a hostage situation, do you run into the street? Where would you go in the event of a bomb threat or an active shooter at the hotel? Where is the nearest hospital, airport, or urgent-care center?

The predictable pattern of an EAP is critical to your protection and that of your protectee(s). Either have it texted to all in your group, written down on an easy-to-read card in your wallet, or commit it to memory. Typical EAP example:

  1. Take a deep breath and remain calm.
  2. Leave the area orderly and close the doors behind you but do not lock them (emergency response personnel may need access).
  3. Follow established evacuation routes (an evacuation route/location map is in each room).
  4. Do not block a street or driveway.
  5. Once out of the building, move away from the structure and directly to a designated rally point.
  6. Make sure everyone you expect is accounted for with a head count.
  7. Stay at the rally point until everyone expected has arrived.

Given the specifics of your exigent circumstances, evacuation may not always be the very best option. In certain instances, your best option might be to remain in place and ride out the storm, waiting for the incident to subside, especially if you are in your hardened room with water, food, illumination, communications, and other necessities.

Predictable patterns can be used both for and against you. Even with a well-planned abduction, you can thwart it by altering your activity patterns. Conversely, EAPs should be memorized as a specific pattern of events when employed in an emergency.