Quickly gathering information and securing the location are the top priorities for law enforcement officials dealing with a hostage situation like the one that unfolded today at Sen. Hillary Clinton's campaign office in New Hampshire, former FBI agents told ABCNEWS.com.
"The absolute key to all these situations is being able to gather as much information as you can as to the person -- who is in there and obviously who do they have held hostage, numberswise," said Brad Garrett, a former FBI agent and ABC News consultant.
Establishing communication to someone within the hostage situation, be it the hostage taker or one of the hostages, is essential.
"Whoever you can talk to inside is key to finding out if the hostage taker is altered in terms of drugs or alcohol and whether he has weapons," said Garrett, who has been on scene at dozens of hostage situations. "Obviously, you don't want to piss him off, and you have to do everything possible to keep everyone safe, including the bad guy."
In some hostage situations, phone lines might not be available, and law enforcement teams will have to take the risk of delivering a phone to the site. It wasn't immediately clear whether authorities in New Hampshire have established communication with the hostage taker, who is known to police there.
"It's very dangerous for someone to have to approach the crisis area to throw a phone in," said Craig McGroarty, a retired FBI agent who spent 12 years on an FBI SWAT team in Chicago. "A phone drop can be something as crude as throwing a phone in a window or going up to the building with armored capabilities. It can be very dicey."
As soon as a communication line is established, McGroarty said it's imperative to get more details about who the hostage taker is.
"The hostage negotiator will start clarifying [the hostage taker's] demands all while diffusing the situation and trying to find out more about who he is," said McGroarty.
Garrett added that it's often extremely difficult to profile who the hostage taker may be so early in the process.
"They run the gamut of people in various stages of mental illnesses, people who aren't ill at all, and sometimes it's circumstantial," Garrett told ABCNEWS.com. "It's obviously a person who has reached some kind of crisis point in their life and who felt they had no other option."
ABC News has learned that the alleged hostage taker in New Hampshire was known to have "emotional issues."
"I don't know if this person is under the influence of medication, or whether he's under the influence of illicit drugs," said Jack Cloonan, a former hostage negotiator with the FBI and an ABC News consultant. "Clearly his thinking is irrational."
"What we don't want him to do, obviously, is to come out with a hostage strapped to himself or using a hostage as a shield," Cloonan told ABC News Radio. "So we need to get him out on his volition."
According to reports, the hostage taker in New Hampshire was requesting to talk to Clinton, something that Garrett said is unlikely to happen.
"Sometimes people make demands only to use them as a triggering method to do something bad," said Garrett. "He might get [Clinton] on the phone and then trigger the bomb while she's on the phone."
McGroarty said that one of the key objectives of the hostage negotiator will likely be to explain to the hostage taker how difficult it will be to speak with Clinton.
"It will be a skilled negotiator who will have to tell [the hostage taker] how impossible [talking to Clinton] is -- they'll say that she's in the air or at a campaign event," said McGroarty. "You can see the danger in immediately caving to demands -- hostage situations will be popping up all over the country if they know we'll just give everything away."