Hammer begins the book with a story about a suicide,
which dramatizes the high stakes involved in these
negotiations in a manner that will intrigue the reader to
continue turning pages. The book then offers a review
of other models of crisis and hostage negotiation
and defines and explains the S.A.F.E. model that he
developed. The second part of the book analyzes
real incidents using the S.A.F.E. model. Hammer thus
provides the reader first with the tools to understand
the model and then the opportunity to see it in action.
The S.A.F.E. model is designed to “support critical
incident management protocols through the
development of more comprehensive negotiation
strategy” in order to “influence the behavior of the
subject to peacefully surrender or assist in a tactical
resolution of the incident.” The model is named for its
four elements or interpretative frames: Substantive
Demands, Attunement, Face Frames, and Emotional
Distress. Before exploring each element, Hammer
explains the interactive process of S.A.F.E. through
three core processes: identify, match, and shift.
The negotiator first must identify through which of
the S.A.F.E. frames the subject views the situation,
and then match (i.e., recognize and operate within)
the subject’s frame through his or her communication.
Next, the negotiator shifts and guides the subject
towards another frame.
As is the case in all negotiations, the subject’s
frame is not static but in a constant state of change.
Therefore in order for the negotiator to be effective,
he or she must continually be able to identify the
changes as they occur in the subject, match them,
and then “after achieving some
progress in de-escalating the
situation. . . . shift the subject to
The first frame of the S.A.F.E.
model is substantive demands.
This frame is similar to what
in the negotiation literature
is called the “position” of the
negotiating party. Substantive
demands are “situationally related, objective wants
or needs.” Hammer differentiates two types of
substantive demands: central and peripheral. Central
substantive demands are those directly related
and most relevant to the subject. Peripheral refers
to secondary demands or those that arise due to
the current event. For example, a hostage-taker’s
central demand might be the release of prisoners
in exchange for freeing the hostages. A peripheral
demand could be the hostage-taker asking for pizza
to eat as negotiations become prolonged.
The second frame, attunement, refers to the quality
of the relationship between the negotiator and the
subject. Some degree of rapport and trust is critical
if the two are to work collaboratively to achieve a
negotiated peaceful resolution. As Hammer puts it,
“peaceful resolution of crisis incidents is more likely
when attunement increases.” Conflict resolution
practitioners will recognize many of the terms
Hammer uses in this section, including reciprocity,
empathy, validating, sharing common experiences,
and the all-important active listening. He illustrates
THe S.A.F.E. Model for Resolving Hostage
and Crisis Incidents
by Mitchell R. Hammer Praeger Security International
Westport, Connecticut, 2007
Mitchell R. Hammer’s Saving Lives: The S.A.F.E. Model for Resolving
Hostage & Crisis Incidents is a book that discusses a specific, if not niche, area of
negotiation and conflict resolution: law enforcement crisis and hostage negotiations. However,
much of the information Hammer shares in this book is more broadly relevant and offers value
to professionals with experience working in other areas of conflict resolution. He takes an
academic approach that neatly integrates it with practical and real life examples.
THis book is a concise modern-style textbook that allows the
reader to get substantive content grounded in research and
brought to life by actual examples.
Jeff Thompson is the
co-chair of the ACR
Section as well as
a mediator; law
Law School Research
Fellow & PhD
Candidate at Griffith
University Law School.