When used properly, pepper spray can deter a would-be attacker by causing the eyes to close, difficulty breathing and pain. If you aren’t familiar with the proper use of your spray, the wind might blow it back on you, or you might miss the target.
Here are three tips for safely testing your pepper spray so that you are prepared for an emergency.
- Buy a practice canister. Practice canisters are typically filled with water, and have the same shape and feel as the real thing, allowing you to become familiar with how to use it without putting yourself or others at risk. Practice arming or aiming the canister so that you can react quickly in an emergency. Using your thumb to release the spray allows you to maintain a secure grip on the canister with your other fingers. Keep your arm slightly bent. If you stick your arm straight out, it gives an attacker the chance to knock the pepper spray out of your hand.
- Use a target. Practice aiming for the eyes. Hitting the eyes will allow you to temporarily blind an attacker so you can escape. Spray back and forth instead of aiming in just one place. This covers a greater area and helps ensure you are making contact, even if the attacker is moving. When practicing, place the unit where you intend to carry it. Being able to quickly access it without fumbling around in a bag could be the difference between success and failure in preventing an attack.
- Practice your escape. Backing away from an attacker makes it easier for him to lunge at you, even if he can’t see. Moving to the side increases your odds of escape.
The stress of a dangerous situation can make it difficult to find your pepper spray and aim it. That’s why it’s critical to be familiar with it before you ever need to use it. Pepper spray is an excellent self-defense tool, but it’s important to be comfortable with it, and as they say, practice makes perfect.
Doug Melzig is sales director, law enforcement and international accounts, Mace Security International Inc.