Unless you have to be tased at your academy, getting pepper sprayed is probably the worst thing you’ll have to go through. I won’t sugarcoat it. It’s just not a fun experience. Even if you’ve already gone through something like this or CS gas because you’re prior military, there’s just no getting used to it.
The details of your spray day will vary depending on which agency or department you’re with. Aspects that may vary include the type of substance used, how much is sprayed on your face, what distance they spray from, whether you’re allowed to close your eyes or wear goggles, and whether you have two fight a role player after being sprayed.
My experience went like this:
The whole class lined up and when your turn came you were to stand in front of the PT instructor and wait for instructions. We were told to run to an object about an eighth of a mile away, do pushups, and then run back. When I got back, the instructor explained that he wasn’t watching and I needed to go do it again. When I got back the second time, he had me start doing jumping jacks and answering some of his questions. He knew that the anticipation was almost as bad as the spraying itself. When I was about halfway through reciting my social security number I felt a blast to my eyes and throat. At first I tried to smile and act like I was okay, but then the effects began to set in.
Through all the burning and coughing, we still had to call on the radio for backup and then proceed to the mat room, where the instructor yelled “There’s the guy who did this to you! What are you gonna do?!” At this point, we had to announce our title, shout orders, use defensive tactics to subdue the subject, effect the arrest, and finally report the developments to dispatch over the radio. You should be able to find some good You Tube videos of how to properly do all of this (and, of course, how to look completely foolish while doing this as well).
With olioresin capsicum (O.C.) spray, you’re dealing with a substance made from cayenne peppers. Not only will it make your face and eyes burn, but you may have difficulty breathing as well. Here are some tips on what to expect on spray day:
Just get it done. Like everything else in the academy, it’s just another challenge that you need to rise to. It may sound easier said than done, but try not to get yourself worked up over what you’re about to do. Just accept the fact that this has to be done, so get in there and do it.
Don’t try to cheat. You might think you can try to beat the system by closing your mouth or eyes even though you were instructed not to. This is a bad mistake because now you’re going to have to stand there with the burning substance already on your skin and wait to be sprayed again, this time worse. At that point, you’ll have been dealing with the exposure longer than necessary and had to endure a higher quantity than everyone else. Oh, and you still have to complete whatever challenge it is you were given.
Maintain your composure. One of the main things your instructors are looking for is who can maintain their composure and who cannot. You may have to speak into your radio and relay information just as if you were in the field. You may have to actually deal with a combative subject in a Redman suit. Again, just realize the sooner you get it done the sooner it will be over.
Don’t just plunge your face into water. Once all is said and done, you’ll have a chance to decontaminate. It’s going to seem like a great idea to just push your face down into the water, but you’ll see when you do so it will feel like you’re drowning. The best thing to do is to just flush your face and take breaks in small intervals.
Watch for “practical jokers.” So you’re in the decontamination process with the rest of your class. You’re all standing in front of high-powered industrial fans. Your instructors have cases full of the active spray. Hopefully, I don’t have to say more.
Sit in front of an AC vent. When I got back to my room, all I could manage to do was to sit in front of my air conditioner vent for at least an hour. This was a huge help. It’s true, the sooner you wash it out of your eyes, the quicker you’ll recover. However, when I opened my eyes up under the water in the shower it activated the O.C. and made it feel like the original spray all over again. I’m pretty sure my roommate thought I had stepped on a nail or something based on the sound I made from the shower. I would recommend taking some time in front of that cool air.
Water and Johnson’s baby soap/shampoo. Obviously, you’re going to want to use plenty of water. Johnson’s baby soap or shampoo is a nice addition because you’re going to want to be washing all over and around your eyes. I still wouldn’t recommend using it directly in your eyes, but if I were to get any brand in my eyes, I would want it to be this one.
It takes time. I’m going to tell you the same thing that you’re supposed to tell a subject who has been sprayed in the field. It just takes time. Relax and try to clean up. Any symptoms should dissipate in a relatively short amount of time. The worst of it really shouldn’t last over an hour.
Not everyone reacts the same way. The way you react is probably going to determine whether you choose to carry your spray in the field. The substance affects different people in different ways and the only way to find out is to get sprayed.
Seek medical attention if symptoms persist. Although rare, I have heard of people having an unusually bad reaction to the spray. A friend of mine actually complained of poor vision and pain for days after being sprayed. If you have an experience like this, you need to get checked out. This doesn’t count as one of the times to just try to tough it out and power through. We’re talking about your vision here.
I’ll leave you with this: Good luck. You’ll get through it. I just wouldn’t want to be in your shoes!