Brief Protective Gear List

by LA Activist Doc Friday, Mar. 21, 2003 at 9:23 AM

This list of gear describes the tools which can help protect you and enable you to make your voice heard in the coming days. The list describes some basic tools which will protect you against tear gas/pepper spray, as well as a bit of first aid gear.

I. Basic Gear For Street Demos:

(choices arranged in order of increasing cost)

(1) Eye protection:

Shatterproof eye protection is very useful in case of "less than lethal" weapons used for crowd control (plastic bullets, tear gas [aka 'CS' or 'CN'] canisters, pepper spray [aka 'OC'] "paintballs", etc.)

Possibilities include:

shop "goggles" - plastic shatterproof material - sold at any hardware stores. If you tape up the air holes, gives some protection against tear gas/pepper spray.

shatterproof swim goggles - sold at swim stores.

shatterproof face shield - sold at most hardware stores - is suspended off head band over front of face. Good protection (with a broadbrimmed hat) against pepper spray squirted into crowds. If you combine with goggles/simple respirator, good against tear gas [note - check to see that respirator/goggles fit under face shield]

shatterproof glasses (sold at gun shops, etc) -

full face respirator with shatterproof shield - gives good protetion against tear gas/pepper spray - sold at some big hardware/industrial supply houses [call first]

military surplus gas mask - best are full face transparent shields with detahable (replaceable) filters. Second best have partial transparent shields over upper face. Least good have two separate transpartent areas over each eye.
AVOID Israeli masks (from Gulf War I), old WW II/Korean/Vietnam masks - they didn't work in Seattle or any of the later protests.
AVOID any masks with glass lenses. AVOID any masks unless you know face shield/eye shields are shatterproof.

(2) Breathing protection -

NOTE: Tear "gas" is actually a petrochemical based solid which has to be heated to become a gas. If the heated molecules pass through water (especially water acidified with lemon juice or - less good - vinegar) some of the molecules will become trapped in the you can't breathe them.

Tear "gas" molecules also revert to their solid state when they cool off. When tear gas (CS or CN) molecules encounter a solid surface (like the ventilation ducts of an office building, your skin, your eyes, the lining of your nose/mouth, the inside of a sturdy 5 gal plastic bucket) the gas molecules cool off and become solid.

If they cool off on your body, you hurt - the wetter the part of your body, the more you hurt! If they cool off somewhere off your body, then they wont cause you pain (unless you handle the object they cooled off upon).

So, breathing protection involves trapping the tear gas:

Possibilities include:

bandanas with water - only work for a few minutes. Hard to seal to nose mouth.

bandanas with lemon juice (or vinegar) - last for more minutes. Still hard to seal to nose/mouth. Vinegar really stinks and can cause skin irritation - lemon juice is better! You can fold up a lot of moistened bandanas and keep in Ziploc bags - this worked well in other big demos.

"respirator" from paint/hardware stores - covers nose/mouth - has replaceable filters (screw on/off). Very effective - make sure you get filters for "organic chemicals" or "methylene choride". Usual cost - about $20 to $30.

military surplus full face (or nose/mouth) gas mask - see info above. Only gas masks with replaceable (screw on/off) filters are likely to work. The old fashioned masks with long tubes leading to a separate filter apparatus are nearly useless. Usual cost: $40 - 100.

full face respirators with shatterproof face shields and replaceable filter(s). Excellent protection. Usual cost: > $100

(3) Skin protection:

NOTE: Pepper spray ("OC") is usually delivered as a liquid (sometimes fired into crowds as "paintballs") - it may be squirted from small, hand held canisters, backpak size canisters, or water cannon. Pepper spray causes an immediate burning sensation.

Tear "gas" ( "CS" or "CN") is a solid which must be heated to become a "gas". When tear "gas" settles on you, it causes a chemical reaction which produces pain. The wetter the place the tear "gas" lands, the greater the chemical reaction and - therefore - the greater the pain. For most people, tear "gas" will produce the greatest discomfort in eyes/nose/mouth.

The primary goal in skin protection is to keep pepper spray off your skin.....

Bringing an extra set of basic clothing (including socks!) wrapped securely inside a heavyweight plastic trash bag will make your day much better if you have been sprayed or gassed......

Protective possibilities include:

(a) face:

- broad brimmed hat. Helps shield pepper spray from above. (Pepper spray on the ears hurts!) Useless for "straight-on" spray.

- bandana. Very limited

- "face shield" (see above). Together with hat, gives good protection

- full face respirator/gas mask . Together with hat, gives best protection.

(b) feet:

- closed toe footwear is much better than sandals/open toed footwear.

(c body/arms/legs:

- Heavy duty 40 gal plastic trashbags with torn out holes for head/neck

- loose fitting, long sleeved lightweight (in LA) windbreakers/ rain jackets/ "warm-up" pants made of waterproof material. These will "shed" pepper spray for a while (if they get soaked, they will then act like a big wick on your skin - if this happens, dump them)

- loose fitting, long sleeved lightweight (in LA) windbreakers/ rain jackets/ "warm-up" pants made of cotton (or other absorbent fabric).

- lightweight "jumpsuits" made of synthetic fabric. Very DEVO....

II. Basic First Aid Gear.

Please take any prescription/non-prescription meds you take (especially inhalers!) on a regular or as needed basis. Take in original, lablelled containers from pharmacy. If you are worried about losinng the meds, store the bulk of the pills (safely) at home in marked containers (out of reach of children/pets/roomates) and take a few days worth to demo with you.......

A. Spray bottle (new!) with hand squeeze action - from 1 pt to 1 qt is best. Fill with 1/2 liquid maalox and 1/2 water. Use for pepper spray in eyes. (If you don't have spray bottle, plastic "bottled" water with "sports top" is better than nothing).

B. Water in plastic "bottles" with "sports top" - figure at least 4 to 6 pints per person per day - more if you have to wash eyes/skin from chemical weapons.

C. 4x4 (nonsterile) pads or clean squares of torn fabric for soaking up pepper spray. DO NOT wipe pepper spray so it spreads over a larger area - you'll just increase the size of the chemical burn!
Mineral Oil/Rubbing Alcohol (both - in separate original containers!) - ONLY if you know how to use them for pepper spray on skin. If you don't know how to use them, please don't experiment on self/others - it will make the pain worse.....

D. Band-AIds, moleskin (synthetic!) are always good - as are any other basic supplies you know how to use....

Have fun out there and be safe(r)!