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For those with typical office 9-5 jobs, you likely spend 1/3 of your life and nearly 1/2 of your waking life at the office. That is a huge amount of your time spent away from your home and also away from any preparedness supplies you stocked at home. Thinking about your office situation should be apart of your preparedness plan.
Biological Emergencies at the Office
#1 First Aid Kit
Paper cuts, allergies, and headaches still occur at the office. Keep a basic first aid kit with common medications available for your personal use. I know my office has a first aid kit in the common area but I am not sure how often that is restocked. A small desk drawer can serve as your preparedness supply drawer, and a first aid kit is a great first addition.
# 2 Sanitation
In my office, we have common equipment such as computers, printers, and our safes. This means we all touch the same surfaces routinely. If someone in the office gets a cold, chances are others will too! The cleaning wet wipes, alcohol or bleach based, can remove the flu from keyboards and common desk surfaces.
I sure don't want to be that crazy lady who cleans doorknobs, but if someone is sick or I am, I will definitely wipe down a keyboard before I touch it. I keep my office well stocked with a container of cleaning wipes, which is especially important during flu season.
#3 Food + Water
Food and water are the basic components of life, and you spend a large part of your life at the office. I prefer not to eat in my cafeteria, always bringing my lunch from home. In addition, I keep protein bars (my favorite) and extra bottled water in my office. If there was ever an issue with the office water supply or I lose my lunch, I will have food to give me the energy to get home.
You could keep oatmeal, jerky, snacks, nuts, or peanut butter and crackers. "But if I keep food in my office, I will eat it!" I hear this response many times, to which one of my coworkers provided the solution. Keep food you don't really like, but would eat in an emergency. I also keep granola bars that I am not a fan of but will eat if desperate. This way, if I will only eat them if I am truly hungry and not just bored.
Active Threats at the Office
#4 Good Shoes
I could not stand for wearing high heels everyday to work and I pity the woman whose office place demands it. I believe good shoes are the foundation of which the rest of your body relies on, and you need a firm foundation. Whether running between meetings, avoiding construction debris in the hallway, or walking between buildings outside; I believe comfortable and protective shoes should be worn by all. In the extreme case of an active shooter or active threat in your office, good shoes are a must when running from danger.
I wear Merrell hiking shoes to work, they come in the business casual all black but provide support. I understand they aren't for everyone, but between my standing desk, walking up stairs and across our large campus, I find good shoes are a must. Luckily for me, most of my coworkers agree and wear similarly sensible shoes, making it business appropriate.
#5 Basic Self-Defense
In many workplaces, guns and weapons are not allowed. Take a look at your workplace guidelines before packing your purse or pockets for the new job. Perhaps a small knife like mine in your purse would suffice to keep you feeling safe and protected. Taking a martial arts class could boost your confidence in being able to defend yourself, when you are at work and have no available weapons.
While rare, workplace violence happens and it's best to know your options and be comfortable using them. Take note of items in your office that could be used as a weapon if the circumstances arose.
#6 Run, Hide, Fight
My office run training sessions open to all staff on preparing for an active shooter or active threat situation. During the sessions they cover our office's specific protocols but also give guidance to the staff. Ask if your office has a plan in place if something where to happen there. Also, check out this video below of surviving an active shooter or active threat situation in your office: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5VcSwejU2D0
Run if you can, Hide if you can't, Fight for your Life.
Evacuations from the Office
#7 Know Your Exits
In primary and secondary school, we did drills all the time for what to do in a fire. We walk calmly from the classroom to the nearest exit and line up in the parking lot. When I was a kid, it seemed like we did drills once a month.
At my office, we do drills once every two years, or so it seems. If you have never done a fire drill at your work place, take a moment to think of your exit options. Talk to security about the procedures you should follow as to where to go if you are unsure. One thing I am quick to tell new employees is that in our offices and laboratories, the fire alarm is also the toxic gas alarm. So if even you don't see a fire, don't take your time evacuating the office, as you don't know the danger it is alerting for.
#8 Multiple Routes Home
After evacuating the building, if you plan to leave the vicinity know multiple routes home. If your common commuting route is blocked or congested, its good to know a way around the traffic without having to fumble with a GPS to navigate home.
#9 Get Home bag
Consider keeping a lightweight Get-Home bag in your office (or car). This is a bag you can easily carry for miles, that contains just enough supplies to get you home. It is not as big as a 72-Hr bag, although they look very similar. What it contains specifically will depend on your expected commute and what conditions you expect to face.
It could include: portable food, water, flashlight, a simple weapon, maybe an extra pair of socks, and a rain jacket. It could also include a small first aid kit, a dust mask (N95), cash, and a map of the local area. See Get Home Bag Basics and 4 Steps to Building a 72hr Bag for full descriptions and details.
A few simple steps today can make your office a safe and prepared place to spend you time. Whether it is a power outage, paper cut, or fire alarm, you will be well prepared to face the challenge. If you can't keep supplies in your job building, hopefully you can store the Get Home Bag and your First Aid Kit in your car. Finally, rest well, knowing you are prepared for emergencies at work.
Have you ever had an accident or emergency in your office? What did you have on hand to help or wish you had? Share your story in the comments below.
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