This guest post was written by former Navy SEAL and JSOC operator Clinton Emerson. Visit his site Escape The Wolf for more tips. Clinton is also the author of the NY Times bestseller 100 Deadly Skills.

They were business travelers, colleagues, students, daughters, sons, fathers, and mothers with so much life ahead until their ordinary evening in Paris was shattered by predators.

Sadly, our world isn’t getting any safer. How can a normal person be prepared for monsters and an unpredictable terrorist attack? You can get inside the bad guys’ heads. If you understand what might happen, then you can take action to be prepared. Highly skilled operatives, or “violent nomads,” possess knowledge that can’t be divulged without severe risk to public safety. But they also possess plenty of lifesaving information that can be shared. Let’s take a look at the basics.

Research. Know where you’re going and what you’re getting into.

Learn as much as possible about where you’re going in advance. Conduct research on the Internet. Ask contacts, friends, and others who are based at your destination. Up your total awareness. Determine how safe the overall situation is. Research the local culture, social protocols, and cultural etiquette. Make sure your personal mannerisms and gestures allow you to fit in. Understand the third-party threats.

Make a simple plan.

Plan scenarios and your actions ahead of time. That way, you’ll be more likely to take the right action in a stressful, time-crunched situation when not all of the facts are available. Have an exit strategy at all times. Plan this in advance before heading into any situation.

Take basic precautions.

  • First and foremost, keep your eyes off of of your phone! Keep your head on a swivel. Your senses will keep you alive. The latest post on Instagram? Not so much.
  • Have someone translate news and media so you are always aware of what’s going on in the country you’re visiting.
  • Talk to locals about which places to avoid.
  • Terrorists love high-profile targets: transportation hubs, tourist sites, government districts, and national monuments. Their goals are mass casualties and attention.
  • Avoid unattended bags left at mass transit stations or stops, or unattended bags left on buses/trains, etc. Report them.
  • Stay away from passengers who wear oversized clothing, dress inappropriately for weather conditions (France train attacker), or have really bulky carry-on baggage or luggage that is stained or giving off strange odors (Russian airliner bomb). The same goes for people on the street who match these criteria, especially if they have a nervous stare and are sweating profusely.
  • Don’t assume check points are always legit. Criminals and others can misrepresent authorities.
  • Plan your routes. Know where you’re going. Always pay attention to your surroundings.
  • Determine in advance the trigger that will cause you to take action for potential risks you’ve identified.

A couple of specific lifesaving tactics from the book “100 Deadly Skills“:

Surviving an active shooter

Run in a zigzag pattern from cover to cover. It’s harder to hit a moving target.

If you can’t run, then hide. Silence cell phones. Lock a door or create a barricade if possible. Call for help. Draw blinds or curtains. Keep eyes on the shooter. Squat or kneel if bullets are flying. Most ricocheting bullets follow the path of the floor.