If you’ve ever spent time on one of the many “prepping” websites out there on the Internet, you’ll see post about people spending hours and hours developing the perfect disaster preparedness plan for our homes. However, we often overlook that an emergency can happen where we work, and there’s a good chance we won’t have the time or the ability to return to our homes as it’s happening. Also, while automated external defibrillators (AEDs) are becoming more and more common in the workplace and are saving lives, the first aid kits found in most offices aren’t suitable for any sort of disaster / emergency response beyond accidental stapler discharges.

The bad news is, unless your job is to actually be a first responder, your workspace probably isn’t ready to deal with a large-scale emergency on its premises. The good news is, disaster prepping for the office is easier than you think. 

A few years ago, I experienced the need to deal with an emergency at my work. I had just moved to Southwest Florida and was all set to deal with a hurricanes and other the issues we have here in the Sunshine State. One day at work, though, my phone blared out a warning that there was an F1 tornado headed my way and I need to take shelter right away.

Inside my car in the parking garage was a “go-bag” filled with disaster prepping supplies and other gear. However, my car was five minutes away, inside the parking garage, and so it might as well been parked in another state for all the good it did me at that moment. 

Fortunately, the tornado passed over my office with no ill effects, but I had learned my lesson: If it’s not within arms reach right now, it’s not first responder gear. To remedy this, I put together a small, unobtrusive bag which could carry the gear I need to stay hale and hearty after a manmade or natural disaster. 

The Outdoor Survival Rule Of Threes

When it comes to preparing for a disaster, I use the outdoor survival rule of threes to guide my decisions about what to carry. I use these rules matter whether I’m building a larger backpack designed to keep me alive for three or more days, or a smaller bag like my office preparedness kit, and they are,

  • You can survive three minutes without oxygen, which includes drowning, smoke inhalation or getting oxygen to your brain after a traumatic injury.
  • You can survive three hours without shelter during inclimate weather.
  • You can survive three days without water.
  • You can survive three weeks without food.

Using this system, if your prep gear has more than one set of fishing gear but has no tourniquet, you might want to rethink your priorities. 

Gear Is Good. Gear That’s Close At Hand Is Better.

Disaster prepping for the office is easier than you think.

Gear is important. Knowledge, training and a survival mindset is even more important.

Having all the supplies you need means nothing if you can’t keep them near you when need them most, so instead of stuffing everything inside an über-cool tactical bag, I found a small waist pack at my local big blue box discount store that looks like an innoccous hiker’s bag. To help keep life-threatening injuries from ending a life, I have tourniquet on me, and I also have another multi-purpose tourniquet in this kit, along with chest seal, bandages and a blood clotting agent. In addition to this, I also have a small first aid tin in the pouch that’s filled with adhesive bandages and the like, for all of life’s little ups and downs. I tossed in a small hiker’s snack bar into the pouch as well, not because I’m expecting to run out of food in an emergency situation, but because I don’t think as clearly when I’m hungry.

I’m crazy that way.

Emergency shelter is not as much of a concern here in SW Florida as it was when I lived in Western Canada, so all I have inside this bag is a lightweight rain poncho to keep my dry for a short while if needed, and a mylar emergency blanket for staying warm or dealing with the effects of shock. Also inside is a small sewing kit, a lighter for signalling or starting fires, a short length of paracord (really useful), some duct tape (really really useful) and a zip close bag with a variety of allergy medicines and pain pills. Inside the bottle pouch on the outside of the bagis a nalgene bottle with a built-in charcoal filter that will help purify all by the dankest water, or turn over-chlorinated water fountain water into something drinkable. 

Communication Is Life

I am a big fan of the flexibility and utility of the modern smartphone because it can perform so many functions at once. A smartphone is our primary means of communication these days, and to keep that line of communication open, I’ve added in a charged-up external USB battery, a USB wall charger and a variety of cords. While a smartphone requires a working cellular network to be of maximum use, even without a signal, it can be used to document damage or to entertain yourself until help arrives.
In addition to all of this, I have the usual items you’d expect to see in a disaster/survival prep kit, such as a flashlight, a headlamp and a multitool. In my experience, I’ve found that a Swiss Army knife, Leatherman tool or similar multi-function tool passes muster in all but the most stringent of “weapons-free” office environments. At some point, practically everyone needs a cutting tool of some sort, and a Swiss Army knife or similar doesn’t scream out “weapon.” Rather, these tools say “Look, I’m a handy guy to have around.” Use caution, however, and make the decision for yourself on this, because getting fired for having a “weapon” where it’s not permitted can be a disaster in its own right. 

Be A Handy Sort Of Guy

For me, the real benefit of having this gear bag near me is that it makes me more valuable at my workplace. There always seems to be a task which requires a flashlight or a pair of pliers or a small knife, and that sort of thing is usually not available in the modern office environment. However, having the gear nearby to deal with life’s big problems such as a natural disaster has helped me solve many of life’s little problems for my co-workers. A flashlight can help find a lost ring, and a screwdriver can repair a wobbly desk, and I’ve found that being known as the guy who can solve problems big or small is nice reputation to have.