HAMPTON ROADS -- What's your first line of defense when faced with an attacker? A gun? A taser?For countless women, it is pepper spray or OC spray (Oleoresin Capsicum spray).

Many women carry the non-lethal deterrent on a key chain or buried in their purse. Law enforcement experts say it can't help you in an emergency unless you have it ready to go in your hand.

'You need to make sure that you're pointing it in the right direction. A lot of times, in a stressful situation, users pull it out and turn it towards themselves,' explains Captain Freddie Wood.

Wood is an OC spray and defensive tactics in instructor at the Chesapeake Sheriff's Office Training Academy. New deputies are trained to use pepper spray so they can be effective on the job. Training involves getting sprayed in the face, then fighting through the burn to perform a series of defensive tactics and finally subdue a would-be suspect.

Captain Wood says if these new deputies can fight through the effects of pepper spray, so can a bad guy. That's why it's important to use the spray properly.

'OC is the perfect weapon for the private citizen, but what they have to understand is, you don't just stand there and admire your work. Once you spray your attacker make space. Put as much space between you and the subject as you can,' stresses Captain Wood.

The captain has some simple, straight forward advice on the 'best use' practices for pepper spray use by civilians:

1-Be sure you are aiming the pepper spray canister in the right direction, not toward yourself
2-Make sure the pepper spray is handy, not buried in your purse
3-Ensure you are downwind of the spray and not spraying 'against the wind' to avoid spray-back.
4-Hold the pepper spray properly, with your index finger on the trigger NOT your thumb that way you have a good grip and cannot be disarmed
5-When you spray pepper spray do it in a pattern from ear-to-ear and eyebrows down.
6-After you spray, don't stick around to see what happens. Get away as fast as you can.

Captain Woods says using pepper spray properly can make the difference between getting hurt and getting away.

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