Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Worst case scenario: Piracy

If you're like me (let's hope you're not), you find yourself assessing every situation by coming up with the worst case scenario (WCS syndrome I call it), then a plan of action for that and then a contingency plan for that plan should your first fail. (Is it just me? Surely I am not alone in this!) I call it being prepared. My husband calls it crazy.

The recent increase in piracy in the African and South Asian seas has sent my WCS into overdrive. I've since amassed the basics of piracy do's and don't's should you find yourself in this situation. I also found some interesting facts about those of us with "WCS syndrome"....more on that later....

Where not to go:

The U.S. State Department has issued warnings for Americans considering travel by sea near the Horn of Africa or in the southern Red Sea. Piracy in these areas has increased in recent years. Merchant vessels continue to also be targets in Somali territorial waters and have even been attacked as far as 300 nautical miles off the coasts of Somalia, Yemen, and Kenya. Many pirate attacks have been reported in the seas surrounding South Asia or Indonesia as well.

What to do:
Most of the time pirates are small operations looking for cash and valuables that can be easily resold. They will usually board, take what they can and then leave. It is not common that it will escalate into a violent or hostage taking situation.

If boarded or taken hostage:

    •    Do not resist, struggle or try to escape. This may endanger your life as well as the lives of  
    •    Cooperate, be passive and compliant.
    •    Do not volunteer information. If questioned, keep your answers short.
    •    Avoid direct eye contact with your captors. Don't let them think that you are watching them.

Before you go:
    •    Make sure you leave a complete itinerary along with copies of your passport and identification
         with a family member. Should your plans change, make sure to let that person know.
    •    Register with the Department of State online at

Please visit the U.S. State Departments Safety Abroad web page for more information and tips on international travel.

How will you react in an emergency?
All of this is obviously just common sense. But as survival experts will tell you, when faced with a life or death situation most people will not do the right thing. This was the focus of a 20/20 news program entitled "Live to Tell: Who Will Survive?"

Survival experts say that eighty percent of people freeze in an emergency situation. "When you look out the window and see the wing of your plane burning, you've never seen that before and your memory searches for what to do in this situation. Finding nothing that compares to a wing burning, you search again. And it becomes an endless loop of searching and having no action." says Ben Sherwood author of the book The Survivors Club -- The Secrets and Science That Could Save Your Life.

Of the other twenty percent, ten percent do the wrong thing and ten percent do the right thing. The difference in those ten percent that do the right thing is being prepared; listening when safety instructions are being given, making note of the emergency exits and always thinking Worst Case Scenario and coming up with a plan. "Everything you've given your brain before things go bad matters a great deal. It's amazing how much better your brain can do with a little bit of information." says journalist Amanda Ripley, author of The Unthinkable, Who Survives When Disaster Strikes- And Why.

So the next time you take a trip make sure to do the research, take all the necessary precautions and always have an action plan should an emergency arise. Being someone who thinks in the "Worst Case Scenario" way is not a negative thing. It's not about being paranoid, pessimistic or expecting the worst but simply about being informed, aware and most importantly prepared.


  1. I'd like to think that I'm among the 10% who would do the right thing, just based on how I've reacted in a couple of car accidents.

    But I plan to avoid the pirate-laden areas anyway! Too scary for me.

  2. Hi there!
    found your blog via EBT.

    I've been in scary situations before (maybe not life-threatening), but I believe I did the right thing on those occasions :)