Consider this scenario: You arrive at work to find that a German madman has taken over your building, has all of the employees held hostage on the Lido deck, and the other bad guys are busy downstairs trying to rob the vault. What if you find yourself in a situation where you are crawling across broken glass, oh…wait. That’s a movie, isn’t it?
Okay – let’s try this one. Let’s say a fire has taken out a few of the lower floors of the building you work in, and the emergency services has shut the building down. No access in or out. Now you’re stuck. You can’t get out, but they can’t get to you, yet. You don’t know how long it will be until they arrive, but with no power, no water, and no phone systems, are you prepared for the minor and major emergencies that might arise?
Is that first aid kit in your break room fully stocked with something useful if someone gets hurt? If the lights go out and you don’t have the corner office with the windows, are you prepared with light? Do you work in an environment where the idea of even having a first aid kit in the vicinity is something they’d ever even think of? If it’s getting smoky, do you have a way to protect your respiratory system?
For those who might already be of the preparedness mindset and have a Get Home Bag in your car, do you have it in the building with you all the time? And do you necessarily want to lug it back and forth each day?
You can definitely go the DIY route to create your own office surival kit to help ensure you have all the tools at hand to help get through the emergency situation until emergency personal can arrive, or you can get to a safe space.
Create an Office Emergency Kit
This is going to be completely up to you. As with every emergency kit or bag, some basics should be included, but you can personalize it to your situation. Here’s a list to get you started:
Bottled Water – First and foremost. Yes, you may have access to running water for a bit, but odds are, if this is a serious emergency, water access may not always be available, especially if it is run with a pumping system. In this case, I prefer bottled water to water packets simply because they can be refilled if a good source is found.
Snacks – Whether you prefer protein or carbs (quick energy), keep a small supply of foods in case you are trapped in your office space for awhile and don’t have access to vending machines. My husband keeps a few protein bars in his. It might be good to keep a few hard candies, too.
Roll of quarters – Not every emergency means you’re without power and access to the break room, but you may not be able to get out of the building. Before you bust down the vending machines, have a supply of coins to be able to purchase snacks to keep you going. I wouldn’t rely on only cash because how often do those machines ever really return change? I’m not going to make the suggestion to destroy someone’s private property, but I wouldn’t rule it out in extreme circumstances.
Light – Even if your building has back up power, it might not be available for the entire floor or the stairwell or side rooms. My husband makes sure to keep his personal flashlight with him all the time, but we’ve found a great area light to be good for general outages, especially during the spring storms in our area. Make sure you keep extra batteries for these, too. If you’d like to keep something less electric, consider some glowsticks that are inexpensive and can be worn around the neck on a lanyard and still keep you hands-free.
Heat – I’m not suggesting you set your office ablaze, but there could be several circumstances where you are without heat for an extended amount of time in a building lock down, and if you do have the ability to create warmth through a fire, you’ll need a lighter or other fire starting tool to help you do so. But please be safe with this one. You can use blankets and hand warmers to help keep you warm. If you have the space to do it, store an extra sweatshirt/sweater at the office during the winter months.
Emergency blanket – Not only good for you if your weather is cold, but if you get wet or someone is in shock, having a blanket can really help. While you may be tempted to buy a bunch of $1 blankets, invest in a better blanket. It will serve you well and be less likely to tear.
First Aid Kit – Your office should have a first aid kit in the breakroom or bathroom of at least every floor if not a few of them. But can you be sure it’s been properly stocked?
Medicines – backup of necessarily medicines that you take on a daily basis. You don’t want to be stuck not having the medicine you typically take once you get home if you end up having to spend the night.
Particle Masks – you can use a basic dust mask or go with something a little more beefy like an N95 particle mask. But you want something to help cover your nose/mouth if the emergency involves dust and flying particles and/or smoke. You can use a hankerchief, but a dust mask is just as easy to store in your box.
Whistle – If you are stuck in a portion of the building that has collapse from an earthquake, for example, you’ll want a whistle like this one that you can use to let emergency rescuers hear you.
Burner phone – Having a back up phone is a great idea. If your phone is dead, having a backup burner at least gets you to 911. Just use an old cell phone, keep it charged, and you can still get to emergency services. You can use a walkie-talkie in this instance, too, which might also be able to pick up emergency chatter to let you keep track of news. If you want to take it a step further, get a weather radio with emergency bands.
Multi-tool – you might not want to have the most expensive Leatherman in your desk drawer all the time, but having a multi-tool in a time of crisis can be a lifesaver.
Extra pair of shoes – Can you imagine walking down 95 flights of stairs in your heels or barefoot? Keep an extra pair of shoes on hand to change into, if you can, and save yourself a lot of trouble!
A copy of the emergency escape route – This might be really handy to have, especially if you are new. This is something you should familiarize yourself with before an event, but having a copy with you that you can pull out of a bag might just save your life in knowing which way to go on in a large office environment.
Work Gloves/Goggles – especially if you are an in an earthquake prone region, this is something you might want to have to protect your hands and your eyes if you have to make your way out of a building after collapse.
What non-Emergency Items can you put in an Office Emergency Kit?
If you want to go a little less Nakatomi (Die Hard) and have an everyday office emergency kit in your desk drawer, make sure to keep some of these on hand as well:
- Sewing Kit
- Stain removal pen
- Feminine hygiene supplies
- Disinfecting wipes
- Safety pins
- Hand lotion
- Nail clippers
- Duct tape
- Contact lens solution/case/extra glasses
If you share desk space or don’t have a permanent desk, you can consider taking in a messenger bag, backpack or tote to keep these in your storage space. Just don’t keep valuables or a weapon if your bag isn’t safely secured.
Also, if you do find that your workplace doesn’t have a useable first aid kit handy, think about talking to your supervisor about creating a basic emergency plan for the office which should include one.
Your Thoughts: If you have an office emergency kit, what supplies do you keep in it?
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Mike is a preparedness enthusiast, adventurer, and sports fanatic. He followed in his family’s footsteps and undertook training and education in disaster survival, home preparedness, and personal safety. When he is not out on his next adventure, Mike offers our readers a glimpse into how and what it means to live a prepared life.
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