We Know: All About Personal Security Equipment

What are Personal Security Devices

Personal security devices are any technology designed to help you protect yourself, from cell phones to firearms. A wide variety of personal security devices are out there for you, some requiring special training and others requiring only that you be watchful and resourceful. The main types are:

  • Taser guns and related items - these may be useful with proper training, but are not legal in all states.
  • Personal Protection Sprays - these are okay, but training is suggested. And not all sprays are legal; true pepper sprays containing capsicum, the chemical in jalapenos and habaneros, are most likely to be legal.
  • Airhorns and electronic whistles or sirens - legal everywhere
  • Your cell phone with 911 on speed dial - the best possible defense as long as you're in range of a cell phone tower.
  • A gun - only if you've had enough training to be both confident and competent
  • Knives and other edged weapons - useful only in the hands of a skilled user. Concealed blades, knives like switchblades, and knives over a certain length may be illegal to carry in public.

Do they really work?

The most effective personal security devices work well from a distance: bright lights, personal alarms, even your cell phone. If you're close enough to an attacker to use a taser gun or pepper spray, you're far too close.

  • Tasers, just like a real guns, can be dangerous, and should be kept away from children. They can spark a fire around flammable liquids or gases, and though they do pack a real shock, they can take five seconds or more to be effective on an assailant. (Count out those seconds to yourself and imagine being attacked at that time to get an idea of how long that really is!) If they are not effective on your assailant (and police officers have found this to be the case fairly often), they will just make him mad. Think very carefully before counting on a stun gun to protect you.
  • Pepper spray may be more effective, but it can be dangerous to you as well, particularly if you have breathing problems. If there's a wind, it's not going to work well; and even if it's in your hand, an assailant who sees you going for the spray may be able to take it away from you. If you do manage to spray your attacker in the face, it affects everyone differently; and glasses may be adequate protection for his or her eyes. A 10% concentration is normal for capsicum; above this, it may be illegal. Capsicum sprays are denoted as "OC" sprays, while the less-effective teargas sprays are marked "CN". An OC/CN spray is considered by many professionals to be ideal.
  • Guns, obviously, can be a potential personal safety device, but many people are uncomfortable with them, they take serious training to use well, and there are numerous legal issues surrounding them.
  • Bright LED lights are much safer than other safety devices, and though they don't seem very aggressive may be enough to get an attacker to back down. And an airhorn or electronic whistle, if loud enough, will bring the very best personal safety device: attention from those around you. Best of all, whistles and electronic alarms can be used while running away.

No matter what device you use, as soon as your attacker breaks away or is disabled, get away from him or her immediately before calling 911.

How do I know if they're legal?

If you're considering purchasing a gun, a taser, or any sprays, you should call your local police department and ask whether they are legal. They'll be happy to educate you, and may be able to give you more specific advice about legal steps you can take if you're trying to protect yourself against a specific threat -- and they will do it without requiring you to tell them who you are.


Where can I get them?

Personal safety devices are sold online and in a variety of stores. Your best choice for where to get them, though, is at a law enforcement personnel supply store. Again, call your local police department and ask them to recommend a place to buy security equipment -- specifically, where the officer answering the phone would buy his.

The most significant advantage to this is not that you'll get better quality (though it's more likely at one of these stores), but rather that you'll be able to get good, personal, and professional advice from the sales clerk. These stores are often run by ex-law enforcement personnel who are experts in personal security.

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