Jonathan McCormick Province Writer

Province Paper Show Case

From May: An excerpt “The Use of Pepper Spray for Self-Defense”

Pepper spray is not legal for use on humans in Canada, but you can use it on animals that threaten your safety. Constable Anne Drennan of the Vancouver, British Columbia Police Department advises Canadians to use it if their personal safety is at risk. Just the opposite is true in the United States, where its use on animals is considered inhumane but it is okay when the threat posed is human. Setting the legal controversies aside, the questions that arise are : Does pepper spray work? How is it used? What does it cost? And, most importantly, it is for me?

In Canada, ask for “dog repellant” and articulate your need for an animal deterrent. In the U.S. check locally for its legal use. As with any product, cost vary with manufacturer, size and quality. Sizes vary from those that fit your palm and cost about $15.00 in Canada and about $7.00 in the U.S. to bear repellant that comes in a humongous canister with holster for approximately $60.00 Canadian.

I suggest carrying a palm-size unit in your outer wear right pocket (if you are right handed). Larger ones can be stored in the door cargo panel of your vehicle, and a similar size can be kept by your front door (but out of the reach of children).

Pepper Spray is basically cayenne pepper, the ingredient that supplies fire to Cajun and other “hot” cuisines. The spray swells the eyes and mucus membranes making it difficult to see and breathe. Effects wear off in abut 30 minutes. The propellent must dry before the debilitating ingredient can take effect, so there are several seconds lost between contact and effects. Spraying on a rain-soaked face obviously would reduce the effectiveness.

The recovery time for 10 percent capsicum is longer than for the five percent, but the 10 percent does not work faster or inflict more severe deterrents. A recent run brought me face to face with a pit bull. Without missing a stride, I sprayed him directly in the face. He took an immediate right turn while shaking his head and was gone–so was I. Aggressive dog–goal-oriented for sure–but so was I. I have a mind set, and send out an aura that animals and humans can detect–“mess with me and you will be the loser.”

Capsicum comes in either a stream spray or cone spray. The former is superior for closeness and maximum solution hitting the target. I met a fellow recently who stated that his daughter carried pepper spray but had no idea how to use it. Very foolish and dangerous.

Peruse this home page frequently for tips on personal safety, including the proper use of Pepper Spray.

Story 2 – Watch out for nut cases on the highway

They’re like school bullies

Friday night, Highway 1 heading east. You’re stuck in traffic and the car beside you seems to be maintaining that position for an unreasonable length of time. It’s making you nervous.

Why? Are you afraid of what the driver might do? Is there really any need to worry?

Not long ago, a B.C. car was fired on while being driven in Blaine, Wash. But we’re not immune in B.C. Shots have been fired at vehicles in North Vancouver, near the University of B.C. and other areas.

So, what’s the solution, other than taking SkyTrain, which has its own share of hazards?

Think back to your junior and senior school high days. You’re walking down the hall, minding your own business, when the resident tough kid comes up and snarls, “What are you looking at, weasel?”

The equivalent of that high school cretin is now commuting on Highway 1.

Don’t stare at him because you think his comb over hair looks funny or, if he commits a driving discourtesy, give him the finger.

Relax and listen to a mellow tape. Keep a low profile, mind your own business and enjoy the commute as much as you can, under the circumstances. This will reduce your anxiety level and remove the possibility that your imagination could be right.

Traffic is moving smoothly and you’re able to maintain an even speed limit when all of a sudden you glance to your left and see a driver with a gun.

Do not panic! Apply the brakes gently don’t slam them on and create an accident and the other vehicle will pull ahead.

Get a good description of the vehicle licence number, color, and make and a physical description of the driver and any passengers.

Did you notice the color and style of the clothing of the driver and any passengers?

Did anyone in the vehicle have facial hair?. Was anyone wearing a hat?

If you have a cellular phone, push the previously programmed emergency button and follow the dispatcher’s directions.

No phone? Get off the freeway ASAP and call 911.

If you run this scenario and a multitude of others through your mind frequently, and one occurs, you’ll already know how to react and panic will not be your response.

Story 3- Back into car seaat to protect your assets

With so much of your day spent entering, driving and exiting your vehicle, commuter safety should be priority No. 1.

Be observant. Your day should be planned so you have time to pay attention to your surroundings. Be aware of your surroundings as you enter your parked vehicle.

Get into the car rear end first. I often see folks getting into a car. feet first, then swinging their rear end into the seat. This leaves your back vulnerable to attack.

If you leave your back exposed, even for a second, and someone rushes you, he can push you into the car and follow you in. That is called car jacking.

Instead of feet first, turn your body and sit in the seat, then swing your legs into position. Glance one more time into the back seat as you close the door. Place your keys in the ignition, lock the door(s) and belt up. Do not belt up, then lock the doors. Once you belt up, you’re trapped if someone attacks you.

I saw that demonstrated on a poor soul who was apparently dawdling too much at an intersection. The driver behind him got out of his vehicle, ran up to the dawdling car, opened the door and began hitting the driver who was wearing his seat.belt. Several other drivers assisted the victim as the assailant fled.


The point here is not to tell you to drive without your seat belt on but to indicate how helpless you are in that position.

As you leave your neighborhood, tune to a station that tells you about adverse road conditions so you can alter your route if needed.

Be aware of the drivers around you. Utilize your rear view and side mirrors to give yourself a 360degree view.

At your destination, use your peripheral vision. Is there anyone sitting in a vehicle near where you are parking? If so, choose another spot: An assailant checks on . possible victims by sitting in a vehicle or other vantage point, then enters a vehicle, locks the doors and waits.

Once parked, look around, unbelt yourself, remove your keys, gather, your belongings, glance around and exit your vehicle, head first.

When you exit head first, you are extending the air of an alert driver, rear end first you are vulnerable. Exiting head first you are physically positioned to take ;assertive action against an assailant.

Remember, it only takes a blink of an eye for someone to come from seemingly nowhere and attack you from behind.

Practise entering and exiting in the privacy of your property or r apartment complex and you’ll soon find it becomes second nature.

Story 4 – How to avoid being abducted

A personal-safety expert offers some tips

Speak softly, give them what they want, and carry a big stick.

OK, this is a deviation from former U.S. president Theodore Roosevelt’s charge, but his sage advice can reduce the risk if someone tries to hold up your store or abduct you.

It’s impossible to relate to the terror filled plight of abducted Surrey tanning studio manager Melanie Carpenter, but here are some steps you can take to reduce the chances of something similar happening to you.

The keys to personal safety are to be aware of your customer’s actions and not to dismiss your “gut” reactions; they can serve you well in a tight situation.

It does help to use non threatening verbal and body language in a bid to prevent the ihctdent from escalating.

Also, going along with the bandit’s requests (within reason) can reduce the threat of violence

Even if several people are in the store at one time, mirrors, video cameras and an awareness of your surroundings will enable you to manage security and sales simultaneously.

The more employees are trainecLand scenarios are practised, the less likelihood an assault, robbery and/or injuries will occur.

A survey of your business neighborhood is the first step in ensuring a safe work environment.

Arrange with your immediate business colleagues a crime prevention program, much like the process for Neighborhood Watch in that you look out for one another. Workers share the same goals and objectives for their safety, so a safe work environment is possible with practice and camaraderie.

Firstly, examine your work environment. What and where are your escape routes in case of an assault or a fire?

You need a back door that is readily accessible.

Equip the door with an effective locking mechanism that provides both security and a quick escape.

The best scenario is to have an emergency programmed phone and an escape route behind the counter, with another door between the counter and the door to the street. Put a deadbolt on this door.

The first door acts as your safe room. Should you be threatened, you could rush to the first door, deadbolt it behind you, call 911 and either stay there move to a storage room that is also deadbolted, or exit out a street door.

If you have a monitored security service in the customer area, locate the panicbuttons unobtruslvely and at hip or knee level. These buttons should be strategically placed at various undetectable locations throughout the store so that in the case of a robbery, a clerk can simply brush against a button and help is on its way.

If your business processes a great deal of cash, you might consider a floor safe that enables staff to slip bills into a slot while maintaining a timed. opening device.

Many gas stations have adopted a policy of accepting only credit cards after ascertain hour. Video cameras that record continuously are also an option. Not too many thieves want to be apprehended, so if the option is available to rob without surveillance rather than one with it, they’ll take the former.

What of personal safety devices?

One item that needs mentioning is dog repellent (pepper spray), which is available in most hardware or sporting goods stores. There are some that fit in the palm of your hand and in a pocket.

The spray acts as a deterrent and buys time while you escape to a predetermined safe spot or into your back room with the bolted door. The key to the use of this device is practice and secrecy.

Avoid leaving yourself vulnerable to being tied up, to being forced to leave the premises or to being locked in a closet or the trunk of a vehicle.

Most criminals using a firearm to commit a felony are lousy shots. If someone is pointing a gun at you from 15 feet away your chances of escaping. unscathed to a back room or through a back door are excellent.

Effective personal safety techniques can be learned.

When you become aware and make personal safety a No. 1 priority you will be better prepared to handle tricky situations.

It’s your life.

Story 5 – Keeping your child out of trouble

Prevention is the best way to go

Prevention is the key to your child’s safety.

You’ve encouraged open discussion regarding possible problems on the way to and from school. You’re confident your child knows his route, alternatives, Block Parent locations and specifics to avoid.

If even the best preventive measures still leave your child faced with a possible altercation, he has several alternatives available.

One of the major causes of youthful confrontation is verbal exchange.

“What are you doing walking to school on my street, weirdo?”

“What’s it to you, acid breath?”

You’ve got it. Clash and someone loses.

It doesn’t have to be your child. In this example, prevention was exchanged for escalation. If your child refuses to get involved in the verbal exchange, often the altercation can be avoided.

“If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all,” says Thumper.

Sound advice from Bambi’s buddy.

A recent stabbing in Vancouver was the result of an exchange of words.

Flipping the finger should be avoided as well.

If, in walking her school route, your child notices a group of potential troublemakers ahead, she should safely cross the street and continue waking. If the trouble also crosses, then head for either a Block Parent house or a business or run.

Avoiding and escaping are the objectives, not confrontation.

Michelle Gagne, of BC Telephone, says that a call to 911 is free, as is dialling “0” and asking for the police.

She recommends letting your child know this as well as pointing out the location of pay phones on the route between home and school.

Calling the police if your child “sees a bunch of kids who are going to beat me up” should be the last option.

If physical confrontation is unavoidable and appeals from your child that she doesn’t want any trouble are fruitless, then a stand must be made.

I discourage the carrying of dog repellent by anyone who has not been trained in its use and the attendant responsibilities.

Facing an antagonist with one shoulder towards’him, body turned slightly at an angle with leg/toes pointed slightly forward (right shoulder, right leg) is an ideal defensive position.

If a book bag is carried over the left shoulder, it should be removed and held close to the chest with both hands in a protective manner.

If a physical encounter becomes unavoidable, an older child can toss the bag as hard as possible at the potential attacker’s face, then flee. The bag’s contents are replaceable, injuries take time to heal.

No bag? Your child’s hands can be cupped close to his chest with the same body position. If the aggressor reaches for the defender, the right hand with fingers held tightly to each other is thrust directly into the attacker’s eyes. Then the child should run.

To use the element of surprise, the jab is done without verbal warning or “telegraphing.” Simulate this scenario and practice with your children and perfect their response.