File photo: Heinz-Peter Bader / Reuters

Johannesburg - Recently motorists were again caught up in a shooting at garage in Sandton. The details are unclear but what is definite is that one person has been left dead, and we grieve for his family.

Which leaves the rest of us wondering, “What would I do if I was caught in the crossfire?”

One thing’s for sure: you’ll quite likely be paralysed by shock and fear. When confronted by deadly violence, fear is a natural reaction, and one that could save your life if handled correctly.

Surprisingly, you may not realise there’s a shooting on the go until you’re right in the middle of it. Unless it’s fired in a confined space, the noise of a gunshot dissipates very rapidly and you may hear nothing more than moderately loud popping.

But what you will see is people on foot moving very jerkily and pointing at each other with outstretched arms; unless the bad guys are shooting at each other with rifles or shotguns you may not even realise what’s going on until you are quite close.

Think about it now

Masterdrive managing director Eugene Herbert advises taking a few minutes now to plan, as best you can, what to do if find yourself in the middle of a gunfight - how to make the best use of that icy stab of fear right below your heart.

“If we mentally have a plan of what to do if caught in a hijacking or a shooting crossfire, some logic may show through the fear,” Herbert says. “While we never really know how we will react in a crisis, planning what to do beforehand increases the chances that you’ll automatically do the right thing to protect yourself.”

First, he says, get as low as you can (amateurs tend to shoot high) and get behind something solid - a concrete pillar, a wall or even your car. Forget what you’ve seen in the movies; only a very high-powered hunting or sniper rifle can shoot right through a car. And despite what move scriptwriters seem to think, it’s extremely unlikely that the car will catch fire, let alone explode.

Then you can get out your phone and call emergency services.

Even after the shooting stops, most people will be frantically trying to leave the area; if the shooting occurred in the street, look around very carefully before running out to help the victims - people may drive around them to get away, or even turn round and drive the wrong way down the road!

The golden rule when people start shooting is: act like a child - don’t run, hide. Get down behind something solid and stay there. If you’re driving, pull over and get behind your car. If you’re on a motorcycle or scooter, you’re doubly vulnerable; get off and get down - but remember the sidestand. Probably the only real danger of fire in a firefight is from a motorcycle or scooter on its side, leaking petrol and oil.

Once again, forget what you’ve seen in the movies. It is absolutely impossible to shoot accurately when holding a weapon on its side, gangster style. Firearms simply don’t work like that, so the bullets are going to be flying all over the place. Stay down until the shooting has stopped.

Herbert warns that you can never be truly prepared for something like this - all you can do is work out beforehand your first course of action if it happens to you.

He and the staff of Masterdrive would like to extend their heartfelt condolences to the family of the person who lost his life.