Build a Workplace Emergency Kit

While few of us would relish the thought of having to spend a single minute more than absolutely necessary at work, it is conceivable you could end up stranded there overnight. If severe weather rolls in, such as a major blizzard, travel could become treacherous, at best. Civil unrest, flooding, or a terrorist attack could all result in being stranded at work and far from home.

Rather than roll the dice and take your chances on hazardous roads, or worse, you may be better off just hunkering down at your desk.  By planning ahead and assembling a workplace emergency kit, you can turn such an event into nothing more than an inconvenience.

Going back to the 6 S’s of Survival

Whenever I begin making survival plans, I keep 6 categories in mind:

  1. Sanitation
  2. Sustenance
  3. Survival
  4. Shelter
  5. Security
  6. Sanity

In a workplace setting, these items could occupy an empty drawer, closet space, in the company vehicle, or just shoved under your desk. It will be up to you to figure out how and where you can securely store these items. And, just in case you’re able to head home, these should be in a backpack, messenger-style bag, or some other bag you can easily transport.

Sanitation and Sustenance

Depending on your job situation or where you might find yourself on a typical day (on the road, for example), you should pack a roll or two of toilet paper, some Clorox wipes, a few a few plastic trash bags and Ziplocs, and hand sanitizer. The TP can be vacuum packed using a Food Saver to greatly reduce the amount of space it takes up in an emergency kit. In my vehicle emergency kit, I keep a dollar store plastic tablecloth that I’ve used as a drop cloth to help insure that a picnic table or other area is clean enough for eating. It has multiple uses.

You’ll want to include some food, in case you’re not able to get to a fast food joint, the cafeteria, or a restaurant. This food should have a decent amount of protein and fat, to provide energy and that stick-to-your-ribs feeling. I buy high calorie energy bars, such as the S.O.S. Ration Bars. Keep on hand a package of those and by eating 3 per day, plus some dried fruit, maybe some jerky, your daily calorie intake will be well over 1200.

If the power remains functioning, you might want to hit up the vending machines so toss some cash and coins in your kit. Just $10-20 will probably be enough. Make sure the bills aren’t too wrinkled to be recognized by the machine!

Survival and Shelter

Don’t forget to pack a few bottles of water, too. We have no way to reliably predict what the situation might be and the disaster you end up facing could result in water not flowing from the bathroom taps. In that case, you might have to get water elsewhere, and it might be questionable as to its safety. A LifeStraw comes in handy for that and since it’s low-cost and very lightweight, you could easily keep it stored in a desk drawer. The Sawyer Water Filtration System is also portable and very popular.

All too many emergencies include power outages. If you have to remain at work for whatever reason, there’s a very good chance there will be no lights, heat, or air conditioning. A good flashlight with extra batteries (or perhaps a dynamo powered flashlight, where turning a crank provides the power) will make you a hero at work, should the power go out. Many of us work in office buildings where the bulk of the work space has no exterior windows. If all the lights go out, it gets mighty dark in there. Do you really want to take a trip to the bathroom using the Braille method? If your flashlight uses batteries, store an extra set or two nearby.

Your workplace has now become  your shelter, so you’ll need to think through what that means in terms of maintaining a safe, indoor temperature. Hand and foot warmers are a good start, if you live in cold country. Mr. Heater is a very popular and highly efficient indoor heater that requires propane to operate. If you’re able to also stash a small propane tank and you live where cold weather is a serious concern, it would be worth finding a place to keep this little gem.

Without air flow, office buildings are famous for becoming stuffy and uncomfortable very quickly. A small battery-operated fan will take care of that.

If your job requires you to wear business attire or, conversely, you end up dirty and sweaty from working in a factory, a change of clothes would be nice to have on hand. Comfortable jeans, perhaps, and an old flannel shirt, as well as thick socks and sneakers.  The idea is to have clothes you won’t mind staying in for hours on end, rather than spending the night in a skirt or dress slacks.  A hooded sweatshirt might also be desirable, and definitely think in terms of layering your clothes. A change of socks and underwear will be mighty welcome, as well.

It’s very possible that you might have to do some walking to get home or to another shelter. Sturdy, warm, waterproof shoes with wool socks are an absolute must. Shoe Goo can be used to create a waterproof barrier if need be. Again, if you live in cold weather country, consider what clothing you would need before venturing out.

Many workplaces have first aid kits in the break room or perhaps the Human Resources office. Often, though, these are poorly equipped and rarely maintained. Either buy a small first aid kit or assemble one with supplies you have at home.  Adhesive bandages, pain relievers, and meds for stomach ailments should all be included.  If you regularly take any sort of prescription medication, keep in your kit enough to last a day or two, at least.

Security and Sanity

Of course, many of us are guilty of catching a cat nap here and there while we’re at work. But, given that you may end up spending a full night or two at the office, a small blanket and inflatable pillow will be welcome.  Emergency blankets are all well and good, but honestly, they aren’t all that cozy when you are just looking to snooze for a bit. A couple of yards of fleece fabric makes a warm, frugal blanket, although on a chilly winter night, you’ll need something more.

A few hygiene items can help greatly with morale if you have to spend one or more nights hunkered down at work. These include a toothbrush, toothpaste, a small bar of soap, and a hand towel.  If nothing else, having these things in your kit will help prevent people standing further and further away from you during conversations.  Another thing to keep in your kit is your preferred feminine hygiene supplies.

Finally, count on the fact that you’ll probably get bored after a while.  You work with the people around you every single day, you’ve already heard all of their stories and you likely don’t want to listen to them again.  Something to help pass the time will be of great benefit.  A book to read, maybe crossword puzzles or word search puzzles, if that’s your thing.  A deck of cards could be fun, whether you play poker or solitaire (you do know you can play solitaire without a computer, right?).  I would refrain, though, from chewing up your flashlight’s battery to engage in these activities.  If an office has a window, and thus light coming in, great.  Otherwise, save your flashlight for when you truly need it.

A final item, to help insure your cell phone and other small electronics remain operable, is an external battery pack, like the Jackery. I own 2 of these, and they are worth their weight in gold. Just plug them in until they’re fully charged, and then keep one in an emergency kit, your desk drawer, purse, or briefcase. Whenever your electronics need a charge, just connect them to the Jackery!

Your workplace emergency kit will likely fit into a small duffel bag, which can be stashed under your desk or in your locker.  While most of us have our bug out bags or get home bags in our vehicles, having this separate kit at your workplace will prevent you from having to leave the building at all until it is safe to do so.

If you are a business owner, I would encourage you to give serious thought to ways you can be prepared to assist your most valuable assets–your employees–in the event of a disaster hitting during working hours.

If you work from home or stay at home during the day, consider putting together one of these kits for a spouse or other loved one who does have to go to work each day.

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