How to protect yourself from tear gas in Standing Rock

What do you do if law enforcement uses tear gas during the December 5th eviction of Oceti Sakowin camp

  • Army Corps announced that the property where Oceti Sakowin camp is located will be closed to the public as of December 5

  • Two different kinds of tear gas canisters have been found at the scenes of the confrontations between police and water protectors

  • Tear gas is not allowed to be used in war

The shocking and violent actions of law enforcement against water protectors in Standing Rock are fueling concern on what is going to happen to the people come December 5th.

The Army Corps announced that they would be evicting everyone from the Oceti Sakowin camp on December 5. After that date, those who stay will be subject to arrest, as the property will be closed to the public, specifically “Dakota Access Protesters.”

The Army Corps stated that they would not be doing a forceful removal of those in the area. However, those refusing to leave the area can be arrested. Naturally, taking past incidents into consideration, you can only assume that force will have to be used to execute arrests to the area.

In a worst case scenario, here is information on some of the “less-lethal” weapons that law enforcement in the area have been using and ways to help protect yourself if you are in Standing Rock, or plan on heading that way.

Tear Gas – What is it

Tear gas, which is commonly referred to as CS gas, is commonly used in crowd control situations. Tear gas is primarily used by law enforcement against disgruntled citizens. Use of tear gas is prohibited in an international war due to the terms of the Chemical Weapons Convention.

The Chemical Weapons Convention was signed by most countries in 1993 and had signatures from all but five countries by 1997. Tear gas was banned from war due to the concern that use of tear gas could escalate the situation by triggering retaliation with more toxic chemical weapons.

As of now, four countries, Angola, Egypt, North Korea and Somalia, have yet to sign the Chemical Weapons Convention. These countries are still allowed to use tear gas in war without any consequences.

The main compound in tear gas is a cyanocarbon called 2-chlorobenzalmalononitrile (also called o-chlorobenzylidene malononitrile). Tear gas is an aerosol created by mixing a volatile solvent with 2-chlorobenzalmalononitrile.

Tear Gas – What it does

Tear gas reacts once it hits the moisture on your skin and in your eyes. Direct exposure to tear gas causes tearing of the eyes and a burning sensation, normally to the point that people cannot keep their eyes open. The burning sensation will spread to the nose, mouth, and throat mucous membranes. It will also cause excessive coughing, nasal mucous discharge, disorientation, and difficulty breathing, which will normally partially incapacitating the subject.

If you are sweaty or sunburned, tear gas can burn your skin. Also, if you do not wash your body after you have had direct exposure to tear gas, you run the chance of burning your skin. Extreme exposure to tear gas can cause extreme coughing and vomiting.

The immediate effects wear off in about an hour. However, a feeling of burning on the skin and irritation can persist for hours. Those who have been exposed to tear gas can cause secondary exposure to others have not. Tear gas is not actually a gas. Meaning, it can cause secondary exposure just by coming in contact with someone’s clothes who was exposed to tear gas.

While tear gas is considered to be a non-lethal weapon, deaths have been documented from heavy exposure. Effects of tear gas can last for weeks to months, depending on how badly you were exposed, and if you have a history of respiratory issues.

The Two Kinds Of Tear Gas In Standing Rock

There are two types of tear gas that are being used in Standing Rock against water protectors. Both are manufactured by Defense Technology, a brand that controlled by THE SAFARILAND GROUP.

Instantaneous Blast CS Grenade

According to the description on THE SAFARILAND GROUP’s website, the tear-gas-oceti-sakowinInstantaneous Blast CS Grenade is created for use either indoor or outdoors.

When the device is used, grenades powder leaks through splits in the sides of the canister after it explodes. The description claims the device releases 1.5 ounces of “active agent,” and is said to be “well suited” for a “prison yard or area.”

Riot Control Continuous Discharge Grenade, CS

The Riot Control Continuous Discharge Grenade, CS was created for use outdoors. Unlike the Instantaneous Blast CS Grenade, this device can be used in a launcher.

tear-gasThe device has a continuous burn and takes between 20-40 seconds to discharge its payload. The gas is expelled through four gas ports located at the top of the canister.

The Riot Control Continuous Discharge Grenade, CS can be used to either conceal “tactical movement,” or to “route a crowd.” The description claims that the smoke and the agent is “agent is vast and obtrusive.” This device holds 2.7 ounces of “active agent.”

How To Treat Tear Gas

  • First and foremost, get away from the area exposed to tear gas. Use your hand, arm, or jacket to cover your face as you leave the area.

  • Once you are away, try to face the wind to blow any excess tear gas away from your mouth and face.

  • If you hold your arms out, it will help the wind to get the tear gas off of your clothes.

  • Go to higher ground, if you can. Most RCAs are heavier than air, meaning; they will go closer to the ground.

  • Flush your eyes with a 50/50 mix of water and Maalox. You can also use the mix to treat skin and rinse someone’s mouth. If Maalox is not available, rinsing your eyes with cold water will also help.

  • Remove your clothes as soon as you can and do not wear them again until they have been washed, or you can throw them away.

  • In some cases, breathing difficulties can be treated with the use of oxygen and medications used to treat asthma.

  • Wash your body with cold water and soap.

What Not To Do when Exposed to Tear Gas

  • Do not stand next to a tear gas canister that has been discharged.

  • Do not rub your face, or eyes, as it will only cause more irritation.

  • Do not use hot water. Hot water will open your pores and allow more of the chemical to sink in. Do not take a bath, as you will be laying in the chemicals.

  • Do not get low to the ground, unless necessary due to other less-lethal weapons being discharged, such as rubber bullets. Again, tear gas is heavier than air so that it will stay lower to the ground.

  • Do not try and catch the canister, as the canister is very hot and should not be handled without protective gloves.

  • Do not touch any part of your body with anything that has been exposed to tear gas until it has been washed. This rule even applies to journalists with their equipment.

How To Protect Yourself From Tear Gas

  • Obviously, the best way to protect yourself from tear gas is, not to go where you may be exposed to it. If you can safely exit the area that is about to be, or already has been, exposed to tear gas, it is suggested you do so to avoid injury.

  • If leaving the area being exposed to tear gas is not an option, then a gas mask is your best friend. However, the filter for the gas mask is the most important part, since this is all that stands between you breathing a cloud of chemicals into your mask. Be sure your filter is not from before 1991, or else it runs the risk of having asbestos in it. Also, make sure your filter is not too old. A filter will normally give you roughly 8-10 hours of its best performance, but after that will not give the same performance.

  • Make sure your gas mask fits tightly to your head. Your friend should not be able to put your gas mask on comfortably unless you guys happen to have the same head shape.

Alternatives To Gas Masks

Not everyone has access to a gas mask or may lack the funds to obtain one. Homemade gas masks are always an option, but will not be as safe as the real thing, no matter how hard you try.

Some claim that you can douse a sponge, or bandana in apple cider vinegar, or lime juice and receive the similar results. These claims are completely anecdotal, as no studies have been done to provide evidence that either method lessens the damage that tear gas does to a body. The same applies to soaking a bandana in water.

Goggles can help to a degree, as your eyes are one of the most affected areas of your body during a tear gas attack. Still, something is better than nothing when it comes to protecting yourself from tear gas. The more area covered around your eyes, the better, but be sure the goggles are as tight as possible when wearing them.

If you would like to learn how to make a gas mask with little to no cost, you can click here to see a full tutorial from wikiHow.

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About Meko Haze

Meko Haze is an independent journalist by day... and an independent journalist by night.

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