Build a Workplace Emergency Kit

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Cars parked under heavy snow during blizzard

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 be treacherous at best.  Rather than roll the dice and take your chances on hazardous roads, 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.

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.

Start with a bit of food, such as granola bars, crackers, or perhaps one of my favorites, honey roasted cashews.  Sure, many of us routinely have some snacks stashed away in our desk but it is never a bad idea to have some extra goodies in your workplace emergency kit. Check out this list of handy no-cook foods for some suggestions. One popular emergency food among preppers is the high-calorie emergency bar. These are used by the military and are actually quite tasty.

Don’t forget a couple of 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.

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

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 workspace 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.

A few hygiene items can help greatly with morale.  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.  I realize most women carry a stash in their purse already but redundancy is always a good idea.

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.

It’s 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.

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. This article, while meant for kids’ first aid kits, has some excellent suggestions.

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 at the office, a small blanket and inflatable pillow will probably 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.

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.

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.  Visit Disaster Prep Consultants to learn how they can help you with your disaster planning.

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Jim Cobb is a disaster preparedness consultant and author. His books include Prepper's Home Defense, The Prepper's Complete Book of Disaster Readiness, and Prepper's Long-Term Survival Guide.

8 thoughts on “Build a Workplace Emergency Kit”

  1. I wish more people would take this seriously. I’ve never been stuck at work, but I did have to drive into the mountains in a rural area. We worked in a pole building that got cold FAST when the furnace went out, and because the roads were the last to be plowed we always knew the day might come when we were snowed in. When I moved farther away and had to replace my 4WD with a little car, I made sure I packed the trunk with everything I could possibly need, whether I was stuck at the office or in a snowbank. It didn’t just relieve my own paranoia; it gave my family peace of mind because they knew I’d be okay no matter what. If you won’t do something like this for yourself, do it for the people waiting at home.

  2. I spent two days at my office last February when we had a snow/ice storm that rolled in quicker than expected. The roads were jammed and it took an extreme amount of time for those who did make it home. (For me, I spent five hours on the road and got less than two miles from work.)

    We were fortunate to have heat and food available in the building but had the power not been working, it would have been even worse. I would say the three keys are to stay warm, stay fed (and watered) and stay entertained.

    Not an experience I want to relive anytime soon. I’ll be out with the first snowflake next time.

  3. Flashlights are a good idea, but our family run business have most other supplies already. We have 10 employees and being in a small city setting we are vigilant about the weather. I tell my coworkers that anytime they are uncomfortable with the way the weather looks – head home. Sometimes we just make the decision and close – the business will survive a weather related shutdown or two and most customers will understand. I would be devastated to have someone hurt or stuck in a storm due to my negligence!

  4. If stuck at work, an oft overlooked need is using the bathroom. Disposable underwear whether you normally need or not is a good item to have available. Shelter in place sometimes means literally hide and do not expose yourself to potential threat. So no potty break.

  5. A word about shoes – Make sure the shoes are broken in (ie comfortable). If you have to walk for any distance, one of the worst things that could happen is blisters. Most people are finished walking if their feet hurt. Also – include in your work E kit – a list of phone numbers, addresses, or other contact information. Don’t rely on memory in an emergency. I also keep emergency candles and both a lighter and matches in my kit. If the power is out, the candle can give you light, warmth – it also gives a feeling of warmth that many people will rally around. I have both a hand held as well as head gear flashlights. For hygiene – I also have a small role of TP. Good for its primary use as well as the runny nose! Keep some hand cream in there as well. It seems as though emergency situations “cause” dry skin! In addition to the first aid kit, I keep 3 days worth of my meds, supplements in a separate bag. I have a reminder on my calendar each month to replace these so they are always fresh.

  6. You may be thinking that this could never happen to you…wrong! I live on an island with ‘good’ weather all year long. A couple of years ago I was working on the top of a mountain doing security for a gas plant they were building. We had 12 hour shifts and due to the weather none of the welders made it up to work, so I was the only one on site. During the day we had an unusual snowstorm and the snow REALLY came down and by the end of my shift there was 3 1/2 feet of snow on the gravel road. They didn’t have any extra snow plows to dig out 1 woman on the top of a mountain when all the roads were so bad off. My employer had a fit when he found out that my relief couldn’t even pull off the highway to head up. Luckily they had just refueled the generator and I had an outhouse. BUT the best thing I could have possibly done was to have a 1-week kit in my trunk! The snow continued to fall and by the time the plow made it up 3 days later we had 6 feet of snow. Everyone thought it was interesting that I was prepared (duh) and my employer insisted that everyone in the company put a 1-week kit in their car – just in case. It can happen anywhere to anyone!

  7. Pingback: Emergency Kits for the Workplace | Be Prepared Everywhere

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