Monday, May 20, 2013

Busting Out of Zip Ties

English: A stereotypical caricature of a villa...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

DISCLAIMER - This is a non-political site that is geared to help writers write it right. I am presenting information to help develop fictional characters and fictional scenes. In no way am I advocating any position or personal decision

Oh, no! Your heroine has been caught by the bad guy and is being taken hostage. She's doomed! Not so fast. Your heroine is cunning, and she took a women's self-defense class (no, it's not all about knee-to-the-groin tactics), and she knows what to do.

Or maybe you have a bad girl who was taken into custody by the cops, and she needs to escape? Easily done if she was manacled with zip ties.

English: Assortment of cable ties
English: Assortment of cable ties (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Steps to escape - whether front presentation (easiest) or rear presentation (higher difficulty) - begin when the character is being restrained.

*The character should present her wrists in the way she wants them tied.
* Ball the fist tightly to make the circumference of the wrist its largest. You can try this yourself. Measure
   your wrist with a relaxed hand and then again for a balled fist. I gained almost a cm.
* Cross your wrists, turning your hands to the side so your wrist bones are stacked. Doing this, I gained
   another cm. I have almost a whole inch of added wiggle room.
* Another option would be lining the wrists up side by side. (This will only work if the detainer really has no
   idea what they are doing.)
* Finally, when the cuffs are being tightened, using the cover of the detainer's hands, slide the tie slightly up
   your arm away from the bone toward the muscle/flesh part of the arm. (just an inch or two)  When
   they tighten the tie down, twist the heroine's arms a little and show the plastic cutting into the skin of the detainee.

Two cable ties: one opened and one closed
Two cable ties: one opened and one closed (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

* If the character presented properly, then there should be enough wiggle room to escape. Simply put the hands flat out in prayer position and work to move the plastic tie over the thumb joint. Once this has been executed, you're out! The character may need to use her teeth to manipulate the plastic upward. Also, if she is upright and watched, she may need to position her hands behind or under something to conceal her movements.

* If the character didn't have a presentation choice,
   ex. she was blacked out when detained, she can still
* The movement is the same from upright or on her
   back positions. If she is on her back, she will need to pull
   her feet in towards her hips and elevate her hips.
* Move the tie toggle to in between the hands and pull it tight with her teeth. The tighter it is, the easier this
* Extend the arms and with a swift move down, pull the elbows across the hip bones. (See video below).
   Male characters would probably use their ribs. THIS WORKS WITH DUCT TAPE, AS WELL.

VIDEO QUICK STUDY - Front Presentation.

Moving restraints from back to front (this is me) (:39)
Slipping Out of Zip Ties - (2:49)  - includes hand presentations and wiggle removal.
Thrust Removal  (1:28) Male model
Thrust Removal (:50) Female Model
Escape with Friction Saw (4:01) Perhaps your character has a broken arm or other injury and can't use the
                                                 thrust method.
Dual Zip Ties (1:52)
Breaking Free (11:21) - This shows arm presentation, and wiggle removal. BONUS they show how to use
                                       the zip tie to open the door that your heroine got locked behind!
Duct Tape works the same way! (:09)
Duct Tape Escape (twist style) (2:12)

Rear Presentation:

* If possible let your heroine set up her wrists for escape, and use wiggle method.
* If she is unconscious or her detainer knows what they're doing she will have to do a thrust removal.
* If standing, she would work to position the lock between her hands and tighten it down as best
   she can. Leaning over, she would lift her arms and pull downward with as much force as possible.
* If she is on the ground, she will need to go onto her belly, pull her knees upward so she is in a yoga child's
   pose and then attempt this.

Moving restraints from back to front VIDEO QUICK STUDY

Breaking to the Rear (:48)
WARNING - these techniques DO NOT work with police zip handcuffs (5:13)
But this technique WILL work on a set of police issue handicuffs.

As an author, you may want to try this so you know how much effort is involved, as well as what the mental and physical feelings entail. I would caution you, however, you can damage the skin on your wrists. So, take some duck tape and circle them around a couple of times to prevent cuts or burns.

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  1. I have to say I've actually tried breaking out of zip ties before (don't ask), and with my hands in front I was able to simply pull really hard and break them. I am a man, so I don't know how realistic it would be for a woman, but I'm not particularly big or strong either so it might work. It's a lot harder with the hands behind though. I know it wouldn't work against the police zip cuffs.

    1. You are right! These scenarios are not possible in police zip ties unless they are using regular zip ties as part of crowd control at a major event, for example. If you are rear-restrained and not a big guy, then I would slide your arms down to your knees, sit down and maneuver your legs through so the zip ties are in front. From there it is possible (if the zip ties are loose) to slide out of them. For a woman (with her strength in her legs not upper body and individual strength variations)if they are too tight to wiggle from you can break them off. AND it will sting. But it's freedom, right?

    2. I don't think I could slip my hands under my feet if they were tied behind me.

  2. LOL! Maybe you should try (and send me a video!) look at the 1:30 mark to see how it's done. I think getting your shoes off, if possible, is a big help. Good luck!

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. I think I could step through handcuffs and get them in front of me. The chain would make it easier to do. Zip ties would be harder to pull off.

      I don't know if I can pull off a video, but I'm kind of curious if I can do this now. I'll try it out later and let you know if I was able to free myself or if I'm going to be in a lot of trouble if I'm ever captured by any villains.

  3. Well I took a shot at it. I didn't use zip ties, partly because I didn't want to leave marks, but mainly because I don't think I have any right now. I just tied a short piece of rope very loosely, so it was just tight enough to keep my wrists together reasonably well. It seemed to help, as when I just held my wrists behind me I kept instinctively moving them apart. I stood up and tried and tried to get my hands under my butt and through my legs, but I can't get my hands past my butt. I tried jerking, I tried trying to slowly slide my hands down, but I couldn't get around my hip bones. I tried it different ways for about 5 minutes or so and never could pull it off. I don't know, maybe I'm doing something wrong.

    So if I'm ever caught by any bad guys and they tie my hands behind my back, I'm going to be there a little while. Maybe somebody will come to free me. I guess if I was a woman I'd make a perfect damsel in distress.

  4. Bahahaha! I love that you tried it! I had my daughter tie my hands tightly behind my back and was able to get them forward in 7 seconds (timed).

    The way I did it was to put my feet together and bend my knees slightly. I brought my head down to my knees so that my elbows were positioned over my hips. My elbows gave way as they slid down. (NOTE I was wearing a cotton dress so I didn't have belts to hang me up - this shouldn't be a problem just more painful as one grinds past them.) Then I plopped backwards and pulled my feet through one at a time.

    From a fetal position on my side (like being in a trunk), it took a little space and some weird dolphin like moves. I had to pull my restraints tightly enough that my blood circulation was stymied. And I had to be able to get on my back for the feet part - but still less than 30 seconds.

    Hope you're never a "damsel in distress." LOL! I'd try a time or two while you're bored and watching TV just so you know you can.

  5. It seems kind of gutsy to let your kid tie your hands. That would be pretty much any kid's dream situation, their parent helpless to stop them from doing anything. Although I guess you weren't helpless very long.

    It was a spur of the moment thing and I was by myself so I did it the way I did. Maybe I'll get someone else to help me out and do it more realistically sometime. I'd like to try the zip tie escapes too. I kind of like the adventurous type of stuff like this. It might be useful one day.

  6. About the kid - yeah, well my legs were free, and I'm a second degree black belt so I was still in control. Also, she lives with me so she couldn't hide for long :)

    The chances of you ever using this outside of writing a plot line are about nil. Thank goodness. Having said that, I will also say, you never know. And once you've tried it and been successful, you will face a situation knowing how to deal (less adrenaline more ability to think).

    When practicing the zip-ties make sure to tape your wrists, otherwise people will ask how you got those bruises and wrist marks and well, it's just embarrassing. (And go ahead and try the duct tape, too - that one's probably more likely). Tell me how it goes when you do :)

  7. I remember seeing you had a black belt on the kubotan article (which is the first article I found on the site, actually). I guess it wouldn't have been smart to try to get away with anything. After all she did have to release you eventually if you couldn't get free on your own.

    I think I might take a shot at this sometime soon. I'll get my chance to see if I could be the hero and escape.

  8. Well, I took a shot at it. I got some zip ties, some duct tape, and someone to help out and went for it. I had some mixed results. I'll give a short rundown of all the things I tried here.

    But first, you were right about putting something around my wrists for the zip ties. Even with duct tape around them, they left some pretty good marks. It's a few hours later now and I can still faintly see the outline of the zip tie teeth in my wrists. But at least it kept the skin intact. Although I wouldn't recommend to someone to use duct tape. That stuff HURTS pulling arm hair coming off.

    Duct tape around wrists, in front- This was easy to get out of. In fact I was out in less than 10 seconds.

    Duct tape around wrists, hands behind back- This was definitely trickier, but still not too difficult. I couldn't really just use brute force the way I did with my hands in front of me. I think I mostly just wore the duct tape down and ended up tearing it more than anything else. I was out in about 3 minutes. I didn't try to get my hands in front for this one.

    Zip ties, hands in front- This is where things got hard. It took a while to figure this one out. It is NOT easy. I didn't really think I was going to be able to pull it off. I finally just happened to get it one time. It does take a good deal of force but brute strength isn't as important as technique. You have to get it just right, but if you do it pops right off. I doubt I could easily do it again, but I'm pretty sure I could get it a lot faster.

    Zip ties, hands behind back- I hate to say it, but the bad guys (or bad girl, in this case my friend who bound me was female) won this one. I learned quickly I wasn't going to be able to even figure out how to get the latch block thing of the zip tie between my hands, and anyway they were crossed and I couldn't turn them. And I still can't get my hands from behind my back in front of me. I was trapped for a good 30 minutes before my friend finally cut me free, after making a crack that it was probably the safest she's ever felt with a man in the house with her.

    I also did try a few of the "presenting" options and they really do help.

    After the last failure I tried and discovered I can't actually cross my wrists with my arms around my hips. They simply won't quite reach. Either I have short arms or a big butt. So I think that method is out.

    So if anyone reads this, it really does work, assuming you can physically pull it off. But zip ties in particular are hard to get out of. If you know what you're doing you can be out fairly quickly, but someone who hasn't done this before probably won't be able to free themselves.

    And I've learned if I'm a villain, I'm zip tying the heroine to something.

  9. Hey! I just saw this - MOST EXCELLENT Randall. Yup - if they are tying you from behind: fist your hands and put them side by side. Try not to give them the choice. Your best option is pulling forward 2nd best is wiggling free 3rd and most painful is breaking them across you backside. But if you were really in this position - adrenaline would help you.

    About your villain comment (I'm assuming in a book plot) or if you are in this situation. If it is a front presentation, shimmy the zip tie. If rear, try to get your hands forward. I guess you could still figure out the shimmy - it would take time and lots of luck.

    Thanks for playing with this - I bet your friend had fun!

  10. It's been a while now but I think the villain comment I made was a bit of sarcasm from me about how to keep a heroine from escaping if I was a villain.

    My friend mainly thought it was funny she was able to render me helpless with a single piece of plastic.

    I actually want to give this a shot again, and maybe doing the shoelace escape, plus handcuffs, and maybe trying to escape some rope as well. I was going to try to get out of a car trunk through the little door some newer cars have but I had to abort that idea because it's so small there is no way I could ever get through it. I don't know anything else I could try here. I'm not really up for being pepper sprayed.

  11. Well, if you come up with something, let me know. I'll do some research and talk to some professionals, then you can try it out and report back. There's a place down in South America where you can buy a bullet proof fashionable leather jacket, and they shoot you to prove it works... that's for an upcoming article on clothing safety...

    1. I think I'll have to pass on that one. Even getting pepper sprayed sounds a little better. A little.

      I've actually wanted to learn how to pick a lock with a credit card for a long time for some reason. Maybe I'll try that out.

  12. Good to see different color of useful zip ties here.

  13. Had a character who used an ounce of prevention. Or maybe half an ounce. He had a small tube tucked in his belt (one in front, one in rear) containing some sort of acid. He could work it out of his belt and place a drop on the zip ties. However, his wife became anxious whenever his hands were tied in the front.

  14. I came back to this because I finally went back and tried the friction saw method, using some of the paracord I had left over from making the bracelet (glad I kept it laying around now). It works really well. I got my hands free in less than 2 minutes doing that one. If you do it, you'll know it's working because you can smell the zip tie melting. I didn't expect that.

    But I had one problem: I couldn't actually tie the paracord into loops with my hands tied. I tried but I couldn't tie a knot that would stay tied. I ended up starting over with another zip tie and tied the paracord before I started my escape.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Awesome!

      The smell of burning plastic is a great detail.

      Did you use a tautline knot? What know were you trying to tie?



    3. I tried to send a comment a few minutes ago but I don't know if it went through so here's another one. I'll try to remember what I said in the original.

      The only knot I could come close to tying with my hands tied was a simple square knot. I thought I had it at first but it came unraveled as soon as I started with my feet.

      I guess part of the challenge is actually being able to do it with your wrists bound together since you'd kind of have to do it that way in a real life situation. But don't worry, the heroines will know how to do it and escape.

      Also, one other thing I forgot to mention along with the melting plastic is the paracord was really, really hot to touch afterwards, so hot I almost couldn't stand to touch it. It may well destroy a regular shoelace to try this.