Pepper spray is an excellent product for self-defense, but you must be prepared to use it or it could be another weapon for the predator to use on you. Police officers use pepper spray as a standard tool; however, they also undergo extensive training on its use and effects.
Here are some questions you need to consider:
- Are you physically prepared to use it?
- Have you mentally prepared yourself to use it?
- Is it in a convenient location? Do you know how to use it?
- Finally, but most importantly, have you taken safeguards to reduce the probability you would need it?
Be mentally prepared
In order for any weapon to be effective, you must be mentally prepared to use it. There are many people who cannot intentionally inflict pain on another person—even to defend themselves. If you are one of those people, you should not carry a weapon.
To be mentally prepared you need to visualize the worst situation you could ever be in, determine your course of action for that situation, and visualize carrying it out. You must make the commitment to use pepper spray ahead of time so you do not second guess yourself when you need it. Being mentally prepared gives you the edge and the confidence to be a survivor. Not being mentally prepared sets you up for failure. Police officers practice this time after time.
Is your pepper spray in a convenient location? Pepper spray will be of no value sitting at the bottom of your purse. It is only useful if it's readily available the moment you need it. It should be on your keychain or somewhere that is easily accessible. Police officers wear it on a holster on their belt.
A tool is only as good as the person who uses it. Do you know how to use it? Does it have a thumb depression which allows you to aim it? Pepper spray may not be effective in controlling an assailant under windy conditions or if it is aimed the wrong way. In a small percent of cases, the spray has no other effect on the assailant other then to make him/her mad. Do you have an alternate plan?
Below is a list of the pitfalls of chemical weapons published by the University of Oklahoma Police Department. The majority of the following statements are applicable to almost any chemical weapon--whether they be aerosol, stream, foam, or otherwise applied:
- Delayed effect—chemicals take some time to affect the target, during which an attacker can continue to attack.
- Effectiveness is subject to weather conditions—completely ineffective in high winds and less effective in extreme cold.
- May be ineffective on some individuals—persons under the influence of some drugs, who are extremely agitated, or who have mental health problems may not be affected at all or may only be further agitated.
- Cannot be effectively deployed against a target expecting it—sprays work best on persons who are surprised by its use.
- Affects EVERYONE in range—chemicals are non-discriminating and, under some weather conditions, may affect the user as much as the target.
- Works only if immediately available—If not in-hand, it is unlikely that an attacker will allow someone to reach into a pocket or purse to obtain a chemical (or any other) weapon—and most attackers will be able to avoid the spray if used.
- Has an effective shelf life (which is shortened by exposure to temperature extremes) —Like any aerosol, sprays can lose their propellant, leak (causing great discomfort and contaminating whatever they're being carried in), and may decompose if left in an automobile in mid-summer or under hard-freeze conditions for protracted periods. Manufacturers do not guarantee the potency (or operation) of devices whose shelf life has expired.
Have you taken precautions to reduce your risk of being assaulted? Awareness is the key to successful self-defense. Always be aware of your surroundings. If something doesn't seem right, it probably isn't. Many victims talk about having had the feeling that something wasn't right. Follow those feelings. If you are waiting for an elevator and, when it opens, you see something that makes you uncomfortable, take the next elevator. If you are walking down the street and suddenly you feel as if someone is following you, change your route. Don't go into a place that is dark. Head toward a business that has a lot of people--and let people know you're there. Be aware and take action.
Pepper spray can be purchased through most gun shops. There are many different styles. Pick the one which best suits your needs. Make sure you check the laws in the states you are traveling. Pepper spray may not be legal in all states. Pepper spray is legal in North Dakota.