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Survive a Mace Attack

07 Oct

And another helpful article for Wired (http://howto.wired.com/wiki/Survive_a_Mace_Attack):

“So you’re worried about being Maced? Forewarned is forearmed, and here’s what you need to know if you anticipate being on the receiving end of a spray canister.

Know what you’re up against

Etymology

Mace (the product) is essentially aerosolized tear gas. This product was first introduced by the Mace company, and its spray became interchangeable with the product—kind of like the whole Jacuzzi, Winnebago, Kleenex thing. Mace does a number on the body’s mucus membranes and can cause disorientation, dizziness and may immobilize the target. Several deaths have been attributed to Mace, one of the reasons why it’s fallen into disfavour. This product is often referred to as “chemical mace” to distinguish it from the pepper sprays the Mace company now sells under the Mace brand name.

A cayenne pepper, the main ingredient of pepper spray. Photo by Andre Karwath/ CC share Alike 2.5

A cayenne pepper, the main ingredient of pepper spray. Photo by Andre Karwath/ CC share Alike 2.5

Mace (the company) currently supplies individuals and security forces with pepper sprays. Considered more accurate than chemical Mace, pepper spray contains the active ingredient capsaicin (which in turn comes from the cayenne pepper plant —thus the “pepper” in pepper spray). The effects of being hit in the face with pepper spray are quite unpleasant. if sprayed, you can expect to experience 15 to 30 minutes of blindness, an hour or two of burning sensation on your skin and at least a few minutes of coughing spasms that make breathing and speaking difficult. Side effects (as if the primary effects weren’t bad enough) include gagging, coughing and hyperventilation. Nasty stuff.

When you hear the term “Mace” used in the context of the NYPD, you can expect that it’s the pepper spray variety they’re packing since it officially replaced chemical Mace in their kits in 1994. So if you get “maced” you’re actually getting pepper sprayed.

Specs

The police model Pepper Spray from Mace, utilized by many law enforcement agencies. Photo from Mace.com

The police model Pepper Spray from Mace, utilized by many law enforcement agencies. Photo from Mace.com

The spray canisters usually carried by NYPD offices have an effective range of between 3 and 15 feet. The NYPD patrol guide prohibits use of pepper spray against passive subjects, but I wouldn’t count on that as protection during a mass protest situation. There are also “fogger” pepper spray dispensers that are less accurate but take out multiple protesters in one spray and “pepper balls” similar to paintballs that include dye so the target suffers the triple indignity of being shot, hit with pepper spray and marked with dye for easier identification.

Prevention

Now that you know what you’re dealing with, how do you survive a mace attack? There’s only one sure way to avoid getting maced and that’s to avoid any potential mass confrontation scenes altogether. But if you have a cause that you’re determined to protest and you’re willing to take the risk, here are a ten survival tips:

1. Avoid the front lines. Most pepper spray canisters have a maximum range of 15 feet or so. Give yourself an extra five feet and stay back 20 feet from any point where a crowd is about to interact with police. That should keep you from taking a direct hit. Of course if pepper ball guns come out, you’ll want to have as many people between you and that burning plastic bullet as possible, so maybe fade into the background for a bit.

2. If you wear contacts, ditch them for your day of protest and put on glasses instead. Pepper spray and contacts make for a painful combination—especially if you’re sprayed and have to pry them out of eyes clenched in pain—and the glasses will give your eyes some degree of protection. Better yet, bring along some swim goggles with a tight seal.

3. Pack a pair of vinyl gloves. If you come into connect with a pepper spray target, the irritants could get on your hands (and then your eyes) if they aren’t protected.

4. Even if it’s 75 degrees and sunny, no shorts. If you want to rock an ironic tee, make sure to wear a long sleeve shirt under it (it’s cool, Grunge is coming back don’t you know). Wear socks and a hat. The goal is protect as much of your skin as possible from exposure to the pepper spray.

5. It’s not just cowboys and hair metal bands that wear bandanas—professional protesters seldom leave home without one. Wrapped around your neck, it provides protection from direct spray; dampened with water then pulled up over your mouth it helps a little against dispersed pepper spray.

SGE 400/3 Gas Mask by ME.ST.EL. Italian designer looks with NATO grade protection. Don't forget the filters! Image:Bestsafetyapparel.com

SGE 400/3 Gas Mask by ME.ST.EL. Italian designer looks with NATO grade protection. Don’t forget the filters! Image:Bestsafetyapparel.com

6. The truly prepared will wear a gas mask for maximum protection. The downsides to wearing a gas mask include being on the receiving end of strange looks, discomfort, looking like a bit of an idiot and possibly making a target of yourself. The police aren’t supposed to profile people (including protesters), but let’s face it —if you show up wearing a gas mask, you might as well have “trouble” tattooed on your forehead. 7. Wear decent running shoes. Going back to tip number one, the front lines sometimes move fast. If you have to get out of the way in a hurry, you don’t want to be wobbling around on heels.

8. If you see the spray canisters coming out, avoid being downwind so you don’t catch any residual drift. It won’t be as bad as a direct hit, but any exposure to pepper spray is unpleasant.

9. For the pessimists (or the “always be prepared” crowd), pack a sealed plastic bag with fresh clothes to change into if you’re pepper sprayed and carry as much water as you can for washing and flushing eyes.

10. If you’re hit, stay calm. It’s gonna hurt like hell and you’ll likely want to punch someone (once you can breath again), but pepper spray is very seldom lethal. A few hours tops and you’ll be okay. Focus on not doing anything stupid like rubbing your eyes.

Recovery

In the event that you overlooked the survival tips or were just in the wrong place at the wrong time:

  • Do not rub!
  • Water and lots of it on any skin surface that’s been contacted by the spray. A cool shower if you can get it.
  • Flush your eyes with cool water (remove contact lenses if you wore them). While some sources claim other remedies for soothing the skin, such as milk, baby shampoo, or antacid, studies suggest plain old water is just as effective as anything else. It’s cheapest, doesn’t spoil, easy to carry and find in volume, plus you’ll want water anyway for flushing out the eyes.
  • Do not apply salves, creams or lotions until skin is thoroughly washed (otherwise irritants can be trapped against the skin, extending the fun).
  • Blow your nose, spit out any phlegm.
  • This goes without saying, but wash the clothes you were wearing when you were pepper sprayed. They may have residual irritants on them.

Note: Specifics about the Mace/pepper spray products employed by the NYPD were obtained from “Report of the Pepper Spray Committee Civilian Complaint Review Board” (PDF)

Original post by Brad Moon, Wired.com.

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