iStock_000003330281SmallJared Loughner ended the lives of six people and wounded 14 others, including Representative Gabrielle Giffords, when he went on a shooting rampage last week. While it is nearly impossible to predict what you would do in a situation like this one, your best chance of survival against an “active shooter” like Loughner is to know how to respond.

Before a crisis event occurs, you should get into the habit of always being aware of your surroundings, including finding the two nearest exits upon entering a room. In addition, you should report aggressive or wildly erratic behavior to your HR department or the authorities if you are in a public place.

Common traits of an active shooter

Active shooters tend to primarily use firearms but often have secondary weapons such as explosive devices. It is common for them to start with a particular target and then branch out to anyone who comes across their paths.

Furthermore, active shooters typically don’t have any regard for their own lives, so they have no need for hostages and consequently won’t engage in negotiations. They will therefore continue to shoot until they commit suicide or are taken down.

If you’re in a different area than the active shooter

Although evacuating the building is ideal, it is often more dangerous to leave the safety of a room to which you can prevent access. Escape only if you are positive that you know the location of the shooter, bearing in mind that you should never use the sound of gunshots to determine its origin due to misleading echoes.

If you are unable to flee safely, shelter in place in a room that is out of the active shooter’s sight and that can be easily secured. Immediately lock or barricade the door, turn off the lights and close the blinds. Mute your cell phones and any other devices that make noise and remain completely silent.

Hide behind large items and don’t let anyone else in unless you are certain that you are not endangering the lives of the people in the room. If anyone gets hurt, alert first responders by placing signs in the exterior windows. Stay in the room until you get official clearance from law enforcement officers.

If you are in the same area as the active shooter

Try to distance yourself from the shooter by finding refuge behind large objects like a desk or vehicle and attempt to keep out of the active shooter’s view. If you run, avoid making straight lines.

As a last resort, playing dead or fighting back may be an option.

Marlia Fontaine-Weisse is the Content Manager for Preparis.