Are You Prepared for a Disaster While You’re at Work?

Preparedness in the Workplace

By Robert B – this is an entry in our non-fiction writing contest.

Workplace survival kit contentsMost of us spend a lot of time on preps for our homes, vehicles, and bug-out locations, but our places of work are often neglected and rarely discussed. This is a big gap in preparedness for those of us who are still “working for the man” and find ourselves spending half of our waking hours in an office or traveling. I assumed my EDC and vehicle Get Home Bag had me covered at work until a simple request for a screwdriver made me realize all my gear is down a flight of stairs and across a parking lot. I immediately added a Leatherman to my laptop bag, but more importantly, I started thinking through potential scenarios.

While your work environment may differ from mine, the key principle is to think through your likely scenarios, make a plan, and the best part…buy some more gear. Your in-vehicle Get Home Bag should cover getting stuck at work or a hotel due to weather, road issues, or civil unrest, so will not be specifically addressed. Medical emergencies, fire, and active-shooter are the most likely in-office scenarios requiring planning and immediate access to gear. These scenarios are equally likely to occur at a hotel or remote office during business travel so build your kit to accommodate.

I am able to fit a surprising amount of gear in my laptop bag which is always with me in the office or when traveling. If you don’t carry a laptop bag, perhaps you have an equipment or tool bag that never leaves your side. I also store additional supplies in my personal file cabinet and desk drawers. In addition to convenience items such as high energy snacks and hygiene items, I carry a Personal Urban Repelling Kit (PURK), medical supplies, and safety gear. A full list of what I carry can be found below.

I recommend joining your company’s Emergency Response Team (ERT) if available. You will typically receive free first aid, CPR, evacuation, and fire extinguisher training. If this isn’t available at your office contact your HR department or building management to initiate. At a minimum, identify where all medical kits, fire extinguishers, and emergency exits are located. Perhaps more important than the free training, you will have the inside scoop on how prepared your company and building really are…and you may be unpleasantly surprised. For instance, my building has no plan for an active shooter scenario. You may also find out how inadequate, and difficult to find, your companies medical kits are; band-aids, alcohol wipes, and ibuprofen are good for papercuts but not for rapid blood loss from an arterial cut or gunshot wound.

Have you thought through your active shooter run, hide, fight scenarios? Even Bruce Willis in Die Hard had to run and hide before he fought. How about billowing black toxic smoke filling your halls? How many exits do you have? Hint: A window (or drywall) is also an exit even if it doesn’t open and is on the second floor. I have a very compact Personal Urban Repelling Kit that allows me to escape through an office or hotel window up to 5 stories high. Be a leader and discuss scenarios/protocols with your team or co-workers that sit near you. Talk through the below sample active shooter considerations and establish an Emergency Action Plan with your peers.

Active Shooter Response: Run / Hide / Fight

  • Run: Check windows to see if you can locate position of shooter(s). Which exits routes are available? What cover is available? What is your destination upon exit?
  • Hide: Close and barricade an office, conference room, or bathroom. Can your door or furniture provide protection if bullets are flying? Do you have an alternative exit if the shooter attempts to break in? What can be used as weapons in the event you need to fight?
  • Fight: What weapons do you have available? Did you observe if they have body armor? How can you launch a coordinated attack against one or multiple shooters? Perhaps two people throw full soda cans at the head of the shooter while someone tackles the legs, and another person secures the weapon.

Laptop Bag Gear

Personal Urban Repelling Kit (PURK)

  • 50 feet of 6mm cord – I don’t suggest rappelling with paracord unless no other option
  • Lightweight harness or 15′ of webbing to make swami harness
  • Carabiners x2 (pre-attach one to harness the other to end of cordage for quick attachment to anchor point)
  • Gloves (for sliding down rope – also useful for moving building debris from explosion or earthquake damage)

Safety / Miscellaneous

  • Respirator dust mask or bandana
  • Lighter
  • Headlamp
  • Mini flashlight
  • Glow stick
  • Whistle
  • Tactical pen
  • Firearm (balance company policy vs risk; don’t forget to remove if flying!)
  • Credit card knife (remove if flying)
  • Multi-tool (remove if flying)
  • Small roll of duct tape
  • Packable rain coat or poncho
  • Phone charger / cord
  • Cash – $60-$100

Medical Kit

  • QuikClot
  • Celox packets
  • Israeli field dressing
  • Tourniquet
  • Basic medicine (Benadryl, Tylenol, Advil C&S, Immodium, Tums, Pepto tabs)
  • Band-Aids/Bandages
  • Alcohol Wipes
  • Eye drops
  • Epi-Pen

Food / Water

  • Datrex Emergency Drinking Water pouches
  • Kind Bars
  • Justin’s Almond Butter
  • Coconut oil packets
  • Tea / coffee packets


  • TP
  • Body wipes / deodorant
  • Toothbrush/toothpaste
  • Mini pack towel

File Cabinet / Desk Drawers

  • Additional food and water
  • Whiskey (helps to calm the nerves in high stress situations!)
  • N95 particle mask
  • Hammer (active shooter defense – even if you’re armed, help to arm others)
  • Full soda cans (throw at active shooter- try shooting when someone’s throwing cans at your head)
  • Extra mags / ammo

Your workplace is potentially an area where you are most vulnerable. I hope this has inspired you to reduce your risk exposure and be better prepared in your place of work. Please share your thoughts or any areas I may have overlooked in the comments below.

Prizes For This Round (Ends on June 7, 2017) In Our Non-Fiction Writing Contest Include…

First Prize a $999 value:

  1. Numanna Organic Family Pack Bucket a $399 value from LPC Survival Ltd.
  2. CampingSurvival Gear Pack a $400 value from Camping
  3. A $200 gift certificate of prepper books from Prepper Press.

Second Prize a $650+ value:

  1. A case of .308 ammo or $300 off Ammo selection of your choice from LuckyGunner.
  2. A Wonder Junior Deluxe Hand Mill with the Masa/Nut Butter Auger, Drill Bit Attachment, and Bicycle Sprocket Kit a $325 value from

Third Prize a $310+ value:

  1. $300 gift certificate from GunMag Warehouse.
  2. A copy of The Prepper’s Guide to Surviving the End of the World, as We Know It: Gear, Skills, and Related Know-How


  1. Jesse Mathewson says:

    Smart thinking, definitely basics that are a must. And than region specific, state and even city depending. – great article!

  2. Thanks for this article, as it has forced me to think about my workplace. Going to add some things to my workplace, but can’t leave a firearm in an unlocked drawer. My workplace is relatively quiet but in a low-income neighborhood.

  3. I always worry about water. Being a diabetic, I get thirsty very easy. Based upon your picture, 2 – 4 oz. packets of water would never be enough for me.

    I use 2 methods. First is a Life Straw bottle. I allows me to gather water quickly, where I may be exposed, and drink later. This is what I have in our 4-wheeler Adventure Packs.


    The second is a Sawyer filter system. This is my backup and is less expensive. It comes with a refillable pouch (16 oz.) and I also carry a water bottle to fill.


    • Chuck Findlay says:

      I have a Katadyn Pocket Filter, but for a lightweight filter I have a few Sawyer water filters ($20.00 in the camping isle at Wally World) to put in bags. It has a nice feature in that it is made to thread onto about 90% of the water and pop bottles on the planet. You fill the bottle with questionable water and run it through the filter. Hard to imagine a disaster situation that you won’t be able to find a plastic bottle to use.

  4. I would also recommend some kind of a smoke mask that covers the whole head, expecially the eyes. A N95 mask will help you breath, but you will have trouble seeing where to go. This significantly reduced the problem.


    Now that my DW is on the 2nd floor, in an interior office, she will have one of these in her desk.

  5. mom of three says:

    Great information something I never ever thought about when I did work in a high rise building. I have given my hubby products to keep in his van, and his fanny pack, the straps are long enough he puts it over his shoulder has snacks, medicine, zip fizz is a great drinking product to use in bottled water, he buys his at Costco for around $22 to 26 for 30 small powdered bottles of it. He also keeps extra clothes, socks, shoes in his van. He lets me know where he is at by texting me and if his job’s switch off course he let’s me know. I even let him know what i’m doing during the day so we have contact so if anything goes wrong we have an idea where we might be if we go looking. My son is 5 minutes away from school, my daughter, is at college she can leave campus, plus she know which way to go home in case of an emergancy.

  6. Hoping for the President to remove the “Gun Free Zone” policy for military bases. I’m stuck on a DHS owned joint base which is even worse! Can’t even have a knife over 2.5 inches, or golf clubs, baseball bats, hockey sticks, etc. DHS considers them all possible weapons. The policy forces me to park off base which means I have to walk a full mile to the truck. But, I have my GHB fully stocked and am prepared to make the 50+ mile hike home if required. I’ll soon be carrying my mountain bike in the back as well, so any trip home will be substantially shortened. On foot it will take 3+ days, via bike only 2-4 hours….with no opposition of course. Also have the Ham radio’s (HT’s and portable HF) all channelized and on a comm plan to make it simple for the wife to use from home. Even have a standard SITREP format in place to ensure critical info can be passed quickly and without giving away potentially damaging info to others. Next week I’ll be making a bike run with all the gear from work to home to test the route, and get some much needed exercise. I’d like to try it on foot, but the wife would put hers up my backside for even suggesting it.

  7. Great article. We have practiced an active shooter scenario in our office, but of course it is contingent on how well you react under high stress situations. I also keep medical supplies, nutrition bars, toiletries and cash in my office. Company policy will not allow firearms on property. One thing I would suggest, I have several co workers who feel being prepared is important and we have banded together in case of emergency. Having like minded co- workers to work through scenarios has helped me to be more prepared. I know who I can count on in case of an emergency.

    • mom of three says:

      Now that is a great and good for your office mates, jumping on board with you..

  8. Almost There says:

    Excellent article… I too am not allowed to have a gun, knife, etc at the place of employment. I can have cans of soda though :). Need to do some more target practice …

    If I even mention anything about being prepared, I will look like an idiot… Even though we do have a mandatory classroom training of emergency preparedness scenarios using a PowerPoint presentation, taught by the police, they are more for suicide de-escalation, disruptive behavior and either man-made or natural disasters and not active shooter scenarios. And let’s face it, if you don’t practice, as in actually going thru the motions multiple times so it becomes second nature, the chance of remembering what to do will not likely occur. And I just moved into a new office location, with even more people that are totally unprepared. So, I just do what I have to do in spite of my office co-workers, keeping it to myself. They are all sheeple…

    As far as joining the emergency team…. I would recommend joining, learning as much as you can and then getting off the team because you will be put on the list to be called upon in a disaster situation, and it won’t allow you to control your situation in regards to either fleeing or sheltering in place.

    • Jesse Mathewson says:

      Socks/ cans…quite deadly 🙂

      • Almost There says:

        VERY, VERY deadly Jesse… 🙂

        • Chuck Findlay says:

          I’m not allowed to have a gun, knife, etc at the place of employment.

          Why ask for permission to defend yourself?

          I work all the time in buildings that don’t allow weapons. But then I don’t point out I have them on me, I don’t have them where they can be seen so it’s not an issue.

          I have even been in the court house (where they scan for weapons) working as no one scans all the tools I have to use on a job. And also I have to go to and from my van all day and end up using other non-guarded doors that have no metal detectors.

          None of us should allow others (whom don;’t have our best interest at heart) to make survival decisions for us. It can be more changeling to have a way of protecting ourselves in a weapon-free environment, but be creative and figure out to do it.

  9. Papa Smurf says:

    As a nursing professional, I have one small quibble with your kit. I realize you already have Tylenol® and Advil® in your kit. You are far more likely to deal with a ‘heart attack’ than a gunshot wound while at work. (I dealt with two during our bad winter storm two years ago) Acetaminophen and Ibuprofen are good and useful drugs in their own right. A study by ‘Doctors without Borders’ found that the ‘Ranger Cocktail’ we used to use in the Army (650 mg Tylenol® + 600 mg Ibuprofen, or in the extreme, the ‘Big Ranger Cocktail’, 1000 mg Tylenol® + 800 mg Ibuprofen®) to be as effective as most if not all of the oral narcotics they might stock. (Years ago, I saw a young man walk out of a night move incident approximately five miles with a broken leg and splint on the last) It was also not as likely to draw raiders intent on pharmaceuticals. So yeah, they’re good stuff. Neither one is a good anticoagulant, which is frequently needed by victims of a cardiac event. Plain old aspirin, on the other hand is recommended for such events. Please add, and use, some plain old generic aspirin to your kit in a reasonable amount for use if need be, for a co-worker or yourself having a cardiac incident. Advil® is not one tenth as effective as aspirin, and Tylenol® has been found to be absolutely ineffective for this purpose.
    – Papa

  10. SherBear says:

    I always kept my keys on my person at work. Living in So Cal… if I managed to escape from the building after a large earthquake I would have been pretty bummed to get outside and not be able to drive home or get home & have to break a window to get in.

  11. Good list, Robert B. Most people would be in much better shape with it.

    I’d consider such prosaic stuff as some candles, matches, a small battery powered lantern, and a flat of commercially bottled water. The water could slide under a desk and wouldn’t draw any comments, and the food you suggest could easily go in a small handbag with other gear.

    If the problem is outdoors, being able to spend a couple days indoors could make a big difference. Also a radio so I would know what is going on outdoors.

    If one can’t have a weapon at work, one might go with a stainless steel ballpoint pen. A tactical pen would be even better, but it would be more likely to draw attention.

  12. I too work in a high risk job for robbery and shooting.
    Besides the already talked about items and gear, something I like to keep in my own backpack is my VHF/UHF HT ham radio that’s got our local police/sheriffs office/ rescue-squad/fire dept. frequencies programmed in.
    I can also get NOAA-Weather with it also.
    I can hit our local repeaters for net check-ins and get to know other radio operators in my area.
    * Even for those without a FCC amateur radio license, FCC law says it is permitted for “ANYONE” to key a radio for help in an emergency.
    When you key that radio, 911 operator just got by-passed and everyone is hearing you………….something to think about.

  13. Chuck Findlay says:

    I work out of my van, I’m a self employed handyman and can have whatever I want (and will fit) in the van. I have 2-months of food (mainstay bars, mayday bars, Mountain House meals and always a bit of junk food, all safe in a cold climate) in the van, a water filter, cook kit, a homemade hobo stove and all the other things we all have in kits.

    I don’t have much water, maybe ½ gal of it. But here “Toledo Ohio” water is about as easy to find as air.

    PS” for anyone interested I was at Big Lots this morning and bought a 16 oz PB2 powered peanut butter (chocolate flavor) for $8.00. That’s not a bad price for it. Being powered (no oils) it stores well. It’s easy to mix with a bit of water to make it back into normal peanut butter.

    It also taste pretty good sprinkled on top of ice cream.


    Another thing I have in the van and on me most times is an “automatic center punch” it will blow out an auto side window with just a push. It will also blow out (as in shatter) a window in any building. If you are someplace and they have what they call an active shooter they lock-down the building. The door power can be turned off and lock you inside. If the shooter is inside you may not be able to get out. This automatic punch will nock out any window or door glass.

    As a prepper (and not a mind-numb robot like most of the population is) it’s up to us to decide if staying in a building is the best action, not some store manager that has no real experience in these events, he’s just doing what the training manual says to do.. This punch should be in every kit we have and on our person at all times.

    The problem with it is that the tip is pointed and tends to punch holes in my pockets. I stopped this by putting a bit of fish tank air hose over the end to stop it. Ladies you can easily carry this in your purse.

    Harbor Tools sells one of these and they are surprisingly well made for something selling for $2.50 on sale and $4.00 normal price. I have been using them for well over 10-years in my work and the tip stays sharp and the punch works good.

    Here is the web address of the Harbor Tools one if anyone wants to look at it or order it. But any good tool store has them for sale.

    • Almost There says:

      Thanks for the additional great information Chuck. Never tried the PB, but will get one anyway. Does it last long after it’s opened?

      • Chuck Findlay says:

        Does it last long after it’s opened?

        Nope, after a few weeks to a month it seems to be gone.

        I don’t like the normal peanut butter PB2, it just doesn’t taste quite right to me. But the chocolate PB2 taste good. I think the difference is that the normal PB2 taste more like natural peanut butter and doesn’t have the sugar / sweet taste most peanut butter has. But the chocolate PB2 has chocolate that acts as a sweetener.

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