When chemical aerosols first entered the market there were, and in some cases there still is, some confusion on what exactly these chemical aerosols do compared to what they are expected to do, but ever since 1990, chemical aerosols have been used with great success. They have reduced the possible injuries to officers and even to the subjects they have arrested.
Chemical aerosol projectors deploying CN, CS, OC of the OC/CS blends are designed to create "pauses in combat," for the officer. These pauses can be either physical, mental or both, giving the officer extra time to process their needed force option. They create a burning sensation to the facial area or the respiratory tract, creating a distress in breathing abilities, and they impair vision by causing an involuntary eye closure.
Selecting chemical aerosol projectors should be outlined by an establish protocol. This article discusses some factors to consider when creating your protocol:
1. Effectiveness: How much do I need to use to get a level of effectiveness? The answer to this question has been debated for years, though several tested in the industry have proven that you only need a ½-1 second burst targeted into the eye area of the target.
Tip: Unlike other non lethal weapons, continuing to use aerosols after the subject is initially contaminated only increases the decontamination time, not the effectiveness.
2. Spray patterns: Like any weapon designed in the market place today each weapon in typically designed to handle a specific threat. Just like any other tool you plan on using in the field, determine your potential targets by assessing your mission and let your assessment choose the spray pattern you use.
The five basic spray patterns are:
Stream – this gives you greater distance from the threat and needs to the deployed in the most accurate manner to enhance its effectiveness and of all the spray patterns can create the most injury to the eyes at closer distances.
Fogger – this is typically from using MK9 size unit which has the smallest particulates. It atomizes the aerosols into the atmosphere greater than the other spray patterns and can create greater respiratory distress over the other spray patterns.
Cone - this is typically from using the MK 3 or MK 4 patrol size units, and like the fogger engulfs the entire target area create a larger area of contamination enhancing the respiratory distress.
Foam – this is the largest in size particulates which reduces area contamination and covers the entire target area. This was designed to allow an officer to deploy indoors or small confined spaces.
Gel - this new addition to the chemical aerosol projectors increase distance over the foam and disperses in a silly string pattern.
3. Safety: These tools are meant to create pauses in combat that are both mentally and physically overwhelming. To date this is the only non lethal weaponry with a 19-year track record of being responsible for not causing any known deaths. Also, being that these are airborne chemicals, there is the possibility that the user could be affected by them as well. If anyone is injured from the formulation used we do not recommend using it. OC has been around way too long to have unsafe formulations to be injured form the spray itself.
Also, these chemicals should not be so hot that they cause burns. Make sure to research the chemical’s temperature, using only chemicals between 1.33-1.43 Capsaicinoids – not SHU.
4. Decontamination: This is the average time needed to recover from the effects of being contaminated. Typically this can last anywhere from 20-30 minutes and if it takes any longer you will need to look at the methods you are using to decontaminate.
5. Canisters and Heads: The usual OC canisters range from an open top where the units have no safety-button to prevent accidental discharge, to a flip top safety that covers the top of the actuator and has proven over the last 19 years to keep the canister safe from discharging unintentionally.
Do you have any other suggestions for officers purchasing and evaluating chemical aerosols? Please leave a comment below with your feedback.
Dave Young, Director of Specialized Programs for Northcentral Technical College - RedMan Training Division contributed to this report.