Violent gangs and vicious criminals have a new “go-to” weapon in their deadly arsenals: acid attacks.
Known as “face melting” or “torture in a bottle,” acid attacks create immediate, searing pain on contact and massive, irreversible damage to a victim in mere seconds.
Criminals love this weapon because it’s easy to get and it’s not illegal to carry around. The bleach, ammonia, industrial oven cleaners and industrial drain cleaners used in most acid attacks can be bought for a few bucks at the grocery store.
What’s more, acid attacks are extremely easy to conceal and quick to deploy. A plastic bottle filled with acid and a little water and these criminals are ready to wreak massive havoc.
Most times, attackers will run up (or ride up) to victims, spray them down with the acid and then take off. And because these attacks are usually aimed at the exposed skin of the face and upper torso, the effects are nearly instant, potentially resulting in:
- Second- and third-degree burns to your head, neck, face and arms
- Permanent blindness
- Horrific facial disfigurement
- Deep scarring requiring multiple surgeries and skin grafts
- Irreversible tissue damage
- And numbness from destroyed nerve endings.
That’s to say nothing of the deep mental pain and anguish acid attack victims suffer. Many victims say there is never any real closure for them, the attack completely changes their identity and they’re “not the same person” anymore.
How to Survive an Acid Attack
For years, victims of acid attacks have been almost exclusively female (80% of global acid attack victims each year are women). But as vicious criminals and street gangs have adopted this weapon, their targets in these attacks are predominantly males.
In the U.K. alone, where acid attacks have skyrocketed 74% in just a year, male victims outnumber female victims two to one. Believe it or not, London is the world leader in acid attacks, which could be the “canary in the coal mine” for an uptick in copycat assaults here in the U.S.
So what can you do to prevent yourself from becoming a victim of an acid attack?
Vigilance and awareness are key.
When you’re traveling, perform a simple online search to find out if acid attacks are common to your destination. If so, maybe think about changing plans, or at least avoiding the parts of town where these attacks occur.
When out and about, make sure you’re aware of what’s going on around you. If someone you don’t know is running or riding up alongside you, get as far away from them as fast as you can. Try to put solid objects between you and the potential attacker to block any flying acid.
In crowds, keep to the farthest edge away from the street. This will keep a buffer of people between you and a potential attacker and give you the best chance to avoid being hit with acid.
Now, if you (or someone near you) is attacked, here’s how to survive…
- First, be sure to assess your immediate surroundings and keep out of any pools of acid on the ground.
- Second, be sure anyone coming to your aid does NOT touch any clothing or parts of your body that have acid on them. This will cause people trying to help to become “secondary victims” and in desperate need of immediate help for their own wounds.
- Do NOT touch your face or eyes, as this could transfer acid from your hands to your face and blind or disfigure you.
- Finally, the best aid is a continuous flood of water to the affected area. Think large volumes of water here. A few regular-size bottles of drinking water are not nearly enough.
You’ll want to make sure the water isn’t being poured slowly, because that won’t dilute the acid or flush it off of you fast enough. It will just spread the acid around, causing further burns and damage. Instead, keep a steady stream of water running over your wounds, using as many gallons as you have access to until professional medical help arrives.
If the pain and burning sensation subsides before help arrives (this usually takes 30–45 minutes), don’t apply any cream to the burns. This will affect the efficacy of treatment from trained medics. Do wrap the wound loosely in sterilized gauze, if available, to prevent contamination.
The bottom line: Your best bet is to avoid places where acid attacks happen, even if it means changing your route or plans. But if you do end up the victim of an acid attack, you now know exactly what to do to survive.
Editor, Spy & Survival Briefing