Let’s face it. Many of us spend upwards of a third of our lives at work. With that many hours spent on the clock, odds are that at least once or twice in your working life you’re going to have some sort of emergency situation crop up while you’re at work. That being the case, it just makes sense to assemble a small workplace emergency kit to keep on hand.
What we’re talking about here is a small collection of stuff that will serve to make you more comfortable should you need to spend the night at work. Road conditions can go south in a hurry, especially in the winter, and you may be better off just hunkering down at your desk until road crews can get things cleaned up.
I know, I know, you already have a bug out bag or get home bag, right? Why would you need even more stuff stashed at work when you have that pack in your vehicle? If you can’t think of any reason why you wouldn’t have access to the BOB or GHB in your car, you simply lack imagination. Some people aren’t able to park immediately adjacent to their workplace and instead use lots or structures that might be several blocks away. In bad weather or during civil unrest, you might not want to make that trek.
And, y’know what? Murphy’s Law dictates that the one time you have your car in the shop and forget to grab your BOB from the trunk will be the day that the skies open up and dump 14” of snow right after lunch.
The point is, redundancy is key to emergency preparedness. The stuff we’re putting in our workplace emergency kit isn’t going to be pricey. In fact, you likely have most of it sitting at home already.
Food and water
Remember, we’re only talking about spending the night, not hiking off into the wilderness for weeks at a time. A few dollars for the vending machines is great but they might not be working if the power goes out. Or, you might get there too late and they’ll already be ransacked, leaving just that one questionable tuna sandwich in the Wheel of Death.
A package of trail mix, a couple of granola bars, that sort of thing should suffice. Stick to things that don’t need to be heated. Junk food is perfectly fine for an evening.
Toss in a couple of bottles of water to wash it all down. Adding in a good water filter, such as a Katadyn Hiker, wouldn’t be the worst idea, just in case something is affecting the plumbing system at work and the water becomes questionable. If you want a more inexpensive filter, go with a Sawyer.
Bedding down at work is no one’s idea of a fun time. That said, you can make things a little more comfortable for yourself by adding to your kit a small fleece blanket. They go on sale incredibly cheap around Christmas. Over the years, we’ve bought several and keep them in our vehicles, at work, and around the house. They aren’t huge, usually like 4’ x 5’ or so, but plenty big enough for keeping off the chill while you snooze.
I practically live in hooded sweatshirts from September through March so I added one to my kit. I just find them really comfortable. You might consider sweatpants and thick socks, especially if your job requires business attire. No one wants to spend the night in a suit and tie.
Wanna be the hero of the office in an emergency? Be the person with the flashlight. Many workplace, especially office buildings, have a distinct lack of windows. In a power outage, things get really dark fast. Just finding your way to the bathroom and back can be fraught with peril. If windows are available, be sure to open interior doors to allow the limited light to filter in.
I suggest a minimum of two lights, preferably three. A headlamp keeps your hands free while you do what you need to do, of course. A second flashlight is your backup. The third light is a cheap one that you can hand out without being too concerned if it never gets back to you. I like this Coast model for the headlamp and the Streamlight ProTac HL USB for my flashlight. That latter is pricey but oh, so awesome. Of course, I always have my ProTac 1AAA in my pocket, too, as part of my EDC load out.
Naturally, a spare set of batteries is wise.
I’m of the opinion that every kit, no matter the intended purpose or the size, should have a knife in it. Consider it a superstition if nothing else, okay? Depending on where you work and who you work with, whipping out something like an LTWK GNS might not go over very well. Keep it low key and just toss in a decent folding knife. You probably have one in your pocket or on your belt already. Like I said before, redundancy. In this case, I’ve added an Ontario RAT folding knife. Small, unobtrusive, and scalpel sharp.
First aid kit
Most workplaces have at least one first aid kit hanging on a wall somewhere. Don’t count on it being well stocked nor up to date. Take the time to assemble a few of your own medical supplies for your kit. Include things like pain relievers (ibuprofen, etc.), anti-diarrhea meds, antacids, and a box of adhesive bandages. Go as in depth as you want, though, and add what you feel might be necessary. Better to have it and never need it than need it and not have it.
It is better to assume the power will go out and you won’t have access to the Internet, then be pleasantly surprised, rather than to count on Facebook and Netflix to entertain you and be disappointed. Reading material is always a good idea. But, remember what we said about lighting. If the power goes out and you’re deep inside an office building, you’ll need a flashlight or some other illumination tool in order to see your book or magazine.
Consider investing in a portable power pack for your cell phone. Even if something goes awry with the cell signal, you’ll still be able to play a game if you have one installed. There are also any number of handheld games you can buy fairly cheap at toy stores. Find one you like and toss it into your kit, along with a spare set of batteries.
A deck of cards makes for good fun, either by yourself or with your coworkers. Now is probably not the time, though, to try and fleece Joe from Accounting using your mad poker skills.
A small radio, preferably one that is crank powered, will not only help keep you entertained but it will help keep you informed about the situation at hand.
Store all of your workplace emergency gear in an unobtrusive canvas shopping bag or a duffel of some sort. The idea is to hide it in plain sight, more or less. Keep it under your desk or in your locker. If someone sees a shopping bag like this, they won’t think twice about it. On the other hand, coworkers might become intrigued by a tactical, or tacticool, pack.
The workplace emergency kit isn’t a run off to the hills and live off the land sort of deal. Rather, it is there to help you get comfortable if you end up having a slumber party with a few coworkers when the weather, or demonstrating crowds, have turned frightful.