About Featured Expert: Joe Rosner is the Director of Best Defense USA, and a nationally recognized expert on workplace violence, personal safety and self-defense, including self defense spray use. The author of “Street Smarts & Self-Defense for Children”, he is a highly regarded speaker and writer on the subject of crime prevention and self-defense for children as well as real estate and home health care professionals. He has been featured in the Chicago Tribune, Realtor Magazine, and other publications as well as on numerous radio and TV programs.
The following is a condensed version of the full audio interview, which can be found in the above link at Science of Skill’s SoundCloud station.
Marcus Roth: Hey there folks. Welcome again to the Science of Skill podcast. This is Marcus, taking over over for Coach Dan. I’m on the horn tonight with Joe Rosner, where he’s been training in workplace violence mitigation and personal safety for over 16 years, gaining experience in the field of self defense. Now he’s here on the podcast today to share his insights. Joe, how is it that you found yourself in the field of self defense and workplace mitigation in the first place?
It’s one of those things I never thought I would see myself doing. I decided I really wanted to focus on things that I found meaningful and important, because honestly tomorrow’s not promised to any of us. Looking at what skillsets I had and what I could offer people, I developed a program called Street Smarts And Self Defense that I taught to kids at park districts, schools, scouts, churches, and so on. Based on my skills that I developed with the military, law enforcement, professional bodyguard experience and so on, I came up with a program that was fun for them, but conveyed an important skill. One thing leads to another of course, and one day one of the moms came up to me after class and asked me to come to her office and teach a self-defense class. I thought, “Okay, what kind of office?” She said, “It’s a real estate office.” I said, “Why would you need me?” She said, “It’s 70% women, and we work alone with strangers in empty buildings.” So I started working with realtors quite a bit. I’m the author of the Real Estate Safety Book, actually. Then one thing leads to another, I found myself working more and more with people, first in home healthcare and hospice, and then out at hospitals and healthcare practices, and I found a lot of other groups need what we have to offer. I’ve worked with people with disabilities, with lawyers, with auctioneers, even.
MR: Auctioneers, really?
JR: Yeah, auctioneers. They fit the risk profile, Marcus. They have high value items and they work in isolation.
Today on the cast we’re going to be more focusing on one of Joe’s elements of expertise, which is OC spray, or pepper spray, or Mace, depending on what the listeners at home might have heard. Let’s first talk about the effectiveness of self-defense spray in the self-defense scenarios. In what scenarios is it helpful, and in what scenarios is it difficult to operate, or really not the tool for the job?
JR: It’s good in a lot of situations. More than not, the situations I’d say you don’t want to use OC spray would be, somebody is actually threatening you with a weapon. Extremely windy days, those type of things. A study done by the Department of Justice surveying officers in Boston found it’s about 91% effective. In other words, 91% of the time when you use it, the OC spray by itself will be enough to resolve the situation without any further force being used. I think it’s important, Marcus, we kind of look at the different types of self-defense spray out there. OC spray, oleo-resin capsicum, also called pepper spray, is the current standard.
MR: Really, tear gas?
JR: Tear gas, yes.
MR: It’s amazing that you’d use tear gas in a self-defense. Wouldn’t you get gassed yourself in the process?
JR: You could, and the same risk is true with pepper spray depending on the nozzle pattern of the pepper spray unit. Those other items that aren’t pepper spray are irritants. They cause you to have very sore eyes, a very runny nose, you may have a lot of tears, hence the term tear gas, and experience some discomfort when it lands on your skin. Those have been proven not to be very effective on animals at all, and don’t work well on three kinds of people, which would be people that are drunk, people that are high on drugs, and people who are either enraged or mentally ill. Whereas pepper spray works well on animals, but let’s be clear, only mammals. If you get attacked by a bird or a lizard pepper spray won’t help you, but it works well on dogs and coyotes. Bear spray and pepper spray are the same thing, just different dispensers, because six to eight feet’s too close to a grizzly bear.
MR: Right, no one wants to get that close.
JR: No. Bear spray is simply just pepper spray in a larger canister that shoots it out quite a bit further, more like 20 to 30 feet. What the effects of pepper spray are, first of all they cause severe burning on any skin that it lands on. It’s a strong burning sensation, but no real harm is being done. The person’s eyes will then swell shut. It’s not that they’re just being irritated, they’re being inflamed to the point where they will swell shut, and the only way they will be able to see is to physically hold them open, which reduces the number of hands they have available to continue an attack. The sinuses will dump out completely, which, actually it’s a very good nasal decongestant, if you can take the pain.
MR: Not advisable at home. Don’t Mace yourself, for those listening!
JR: There’s plenty of videos of people doing it. Then as soon as somebody inhales it and it gets in their bronchial passages, it’ll cause spasmodic coughing to the extent that they’re going to have a hard time getting enough air in their system to continue an attack. Usually the coughing is violent enough, they’ll fall to the ground and be down there anywhere from 5 to maybe 45 minutes, and then most people recover without any need for first aid whatsoever.
MR: Who would you recommend carry self-defense spray with them every day? Is it for everyone, or is it just for specific people?
JR: I think so. I think unless you have a pepper allergy, or you work in a place where it wouldn’t be appropriate to take pepper spray, that most people will be safer by carrying it. It’s safe to carry, it’s unlikely to go off in your pocket, the better quality products are good to 150 degrees, so you can safely keep in your car. Probably not up on the dash, but in the center console. For most people it’s a good choice to carry, because not only does it work on people, but if you ever had an encounter with an aggressive dog, or pack of dogs or something like that, it’s effective there. People who shouldn’t carry it, I would say for instance if you work in a school or a hospital, pepper spray would be a bad idea. Because if it discharged accidentally, or if you used it to defend yourself, it could and likely would get into the HVAC system and circulate throughout the building.
MR: Yeah, that’s certainly not good in a hospital situation.
JR: No. In those cases there’s pepper foam and pepper gel. They’re not quite as effective, although they’re pretty effective, and they won’t get into the HVAC system, so they’re not going to contaminate a whole building.
MR: Let’s say I’ve just been struck by some pepper spray. I assume physical strength does not have much to do with this staying up and fighting after you’ve been sprayed, from what you’ve described.
MR: It really must just be about pain tolerance, right, and training, if you wanted to stay up?
JR: Pain tolerance would enable somebody to perform a little better after being sprayed, but loss of eyesight is loss of eyesight.
MR: Yeah, that’s pretty rough. Not many people train blind, or train at all for that matter, if they’re just a street thug.
JR: Exactly. If you were fighting somebody who was a big strong judo practitioner, even if they couldn’t see well, if they got their hands on your wrist or something you’d be in pretty bad trouble. On the other hand, if you spray somebody and then move off in a different direction so they don’t know where you’re at, then it doesn’t matter so much.
MR: What advice would you give for the fist-time user?
JR: I think when you buy pepper spray, first thing you should do is, of course, read the directions, both on the packaging and on the can. Then I would say take it outside and practice with a quick test shot to make sure you bought one that is up to quality standards, that it shoots out at least, in most cases, eight to 10 feet. There are some little tiny ones that only go out three or four feet, there’s some big ones that’ll shoot all the way across the room, so you want to make sure you have a unit that’s working and fully charged. Then practice different scenarios. With average pepper spray, you might want to practice things like concealing it in your hand, reaching into your pocket and changing it from safe to ready. A lot of people are going to instinctively want to push the trigger on a typical pepper spray with their thumb, and that’s okay, but you need to make sure your finger’s not in front of the nozzle. That’s something called self-defeating behavior. It’s generally more reliable to just use your index finger to push the trigger.
MR: What about people with children, or who work around children? You mentioned in hospitals. It seems like pepper spray isn’t much of a good idea, and should they even let their child carry it or handle it whatsoever?
JR: One is, if you’re working in a facility where there are children, probably best off leaving your pepper spray in your car. Or if you can secure it, if your purse for instance, gets secured in a safe place at the school, that’s fine as well, but you don’t want to be carrying it around in the school all the time. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend, while you’re in contact with the kids, that you carry it. With your children at home, most pepper sprays would be very hard for a child under the age of about five or six to trigger, but if you have kids older than five, and especially boys, sooner or later they’re going to find it. I recommend satisfying their curiosity. Take them outside, show them to it, let them do a quick test fire of it, and even smell a little bit of it, and then you warn them. “If you find this laying around, I forgot to secure it, you are not to play with it.”
MR: Any pointers to give someone, maybe that 40 year old son of yours, who had used self defense spray at least once before? Is there a drill at home you think you could share with the listeners to help train with OC spray?
JR: Yeah. Again, practicing drawing it from wherever you’re most likely to keep it. For me it’s usually going to be in the pocket, with women it’s going to be in the purse. Also, better quality pepper sprays, the keychain models attach to your keys, so you should practice either detaching it quickly from your eyes while you’re driving, or when you’re using your key to open a door, either a car door or a door to your home or office, being prepared to make the transition. Most of these hard shell pepper spray units can also be used as a striking tool, so once you spray a person you can then take the pepper spray unit, and it’s a hard, solid plastic item, and you can strike people in the usual places where there’s a pressure point. The subclavian artery, the suprasternal notch, the floating rib and solar plexus, sciatic nerve is a real beauty to nail somebody with there, or the femoral artery on the inside. Almost anything you can do with a kubaton, you can do with hard can of pepper spray.
MR: Wrapping up here, what would be the legal pitfalls when it comes to this tool?
JR: Yeah. As a rule, you can’t take it any place you see metal detectors. If you see metal detectors at a football stadium, courthouse, and of course an airport, you can’t take the pepper spray in there. You can put the pepper spray in checked baggage when you fly, and if you do so, just to be on the safe side I recommend sticking it a Ziploc. Just in case the altitude were to seep a little bit. That’s going to provide an extra margin of safety. Some states have rules about what kind of pepper spray is legal to own. Wisconsin and Michigan come to mind. It usually only affects what’s legal to sell, not what’s legal to carry.
MR: Joe, this has been a wonderful podcast, very informative for our listeners. I know I’ve certainly learned a lot. If one of our listeners were going to look and find you, where would they reach out? How would they contact you?
JR:There’s bestdefenseusa.com, they can find me there. I’m on LinkedIn. I’m Joe Rosner, that’s the self defense instructor, not the psychoanalyst, the weather forecaster, the restaurant owner, or the small business consultant. I can also be reached on the phone, 888 439 1411.
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