You’re enjoying a night out with friends. It’s time for everyone to head home, so you head over to the parking lot where your car is parked.

The lighting is a bit sketchy. You pull out the keys, toggle the unlock, and dismiss your instincts as paranoia that’s when you hear the sound of rapid footsteps approaching. It doesn’t sound like one of your friends. You turn uncertainly, wondering what to expect.

Now it is decision time.

When you suspect someone is about to attack you, there are seven critical rules to follow to get out of that situation safely. Here is a brief overview of each one.

1. Be Aware of Your Surroundings

Don’t look at the shadows for an attack. Be vigilant with all your senses to detect a potential problem. Listen for unusual sounds, pay attention to strange smells, and trust your instincts. If something feels wrong, it probably is. Get your self-defense options ready now.

2. Walk Confidently

Most people know to walk with confidence when they expect an attack. If you show someone you’re not afraid to deal some damage, they’ll typically avoid you because they’re looking for an easy mark.

What gets missed in this step is to avoid eye contact. This non-verbal behavior can be seen as a personal challenge. If you look away, you’ll be more likely to avoid a confrontation that day.

3. Avoid Direct Conflict

The safety approach to a self-defense situation is to avoid a physical confrontation. Keep as much space between you and the other person as possible.

Some people talk trash or taunt to goad you into a fight. Don’t fall for it! The goal should be to walk away safely, not prove that you have superior skills.

4. Attack First

If you must defend yourself, attack first. A physical assault can keep you safe if you believe your life is in danger. The person who strikes first is usually the one who comes away from the incident unscathed.

5. Attack All the Way

Strike the assailant’s critical zones at least five times, with all your bodyweight and power, to prevent a counterassault from happening. Continue until the perpetrator is no longer a threat.

6. Strike the Critical Zones

The best places to attack someone in self-defense are the eyes, throat, and groin. You can stun someone by striking them hard in the nose, while an attack to the sides of the neck can impact the veins or arteries there.

7. Call for Help

As you run from the situation, call for help. If you have a phone available, call 911 or contact emergency services. Provide a complete report of the circumstances, including any actions you took to defend yourself. If you used a self-defense tool, you might be asked to turn it in as part of the investigation. Self-defense rules are designed to help keep you safe in unsafe situations. You aren’t seeking a conflict with these steps, but you can stop a problem before it gets bigger.