Disaster don’t care!   They happen were ever they want, whenever they want.  Disasters happen all times of day and night, and they can happen anywhere.  We can predict when some disasters and emergencies will happen, like hurricanes, but the vast majority occur with little or no warning.  This is why you should be prepared for them wherever you are.

A general disaster kit should cover a few basics: food, water, first aid, personal protection, shelter.  However, since we’re talking about a kit to keep in a drawer at the office (outdoor, trades-work, and retail will be discussed in a different post), we want to keep things small and portable.  From an office environment, theoretically, you would just need to get out of the building and to your vehicle, which should have a “car kit” or “get home kit” in it.  I’ll talk about those in the coming weeks.

One of the first things that I think about including in my emergency kits is filter masks, because I like to be able to breathe.  I recommend any one of the various N95 rated masks that are on the market.  These are not your daddy’s dust masks.  These puppies will filter out anything larger than 0.3 microns with a 95% reliability.  That will cover just about any sort of particles that could get kicked up in an emergency.  These masks do NOTHING to filter out fumes or chemicals. For that you will need something a little more high-tech, like  cartridge-based respirators.  Those can be used to filter out chemical as well as particles, if you pay attention to the filters that you buy.

A good, solid pair of work gloves is important as well.  If you need to move debris out of the way in order to get yourself out, they will go a long way to preventing you from messing up your hands. Any pair of leather- or synthetic-palm gloves will do, but avoid the all-cloth ones.  I personally like Mechanix brand work gloves because of the variety of protection options available, but they tend to be a little bit on the expensive side.

Get a pair of safety goggles to keep at the office, too.  Just like with the breathing masks, I like to be able to see, and keeping junk out of your eyes is important. Make sure that which ever type of safety glasses or goggles you get will fit with your normal glasses, if you wear them.

You never know if the roof will be ripped off of your building and snow or rain pours in. Or when you will have to evacuate the building and stand around outside.  Because of that, keep some sort of rain protection in your office kit.  An inexpensive plastic/PVC poncho will keep you dry in a pinch, and staying dry can be the difference between being chilly and having hypothermia.

Make sure that you have some food and water available in the event that you get stuck. Empty water bottles come in all shapes, sizes, and materials.  However, you can also put one or two bottled water containers in your work kit.  I would suggest at least a full liter, though.  My personal favorite bottles are Nalgene brand wide-mouth bottles.  Each holds slightly over a liter, and the cap is rock-solid.  They are also available in a wide range of shapes, sizes, and configurations.

For food, pack a couple of meal replacement bars.  PowerBars or Clif Bars are a good move here, since they are both designed to provide energy and nutrition to active people.  I choose to use Millenium food bars in my kits, because they are reasonably tasty, reasonably nutritious, and have a very long shelf life: 5 years.  The Millenium bars are specially designed as emergency and disaster food, so they meet a very specific set of goals, and they are relatively inexpensive, at around $1.50 per bar, depending on where you buy them.  They are a specialty item, though, so you will most likely have to order them online, as opposed to the PowerBar and Clif Bar, which are available at many grocery stores.

Finally, I am a big advocate of everybody having first aid supplies available pretty much everywhere and at all times.  OSHA regulations have something to say about work-place first aid availability, but we all know that first aid kits run out of stuff and are not always re-supplied as soon as they should be.  Because of this, and the fact that adults should be reasonably self-sufficient, I recommend keeping at least a small first aid kit in your proverbial back pocket.  Because everybody’s work situation is different, I really can’t recommend one specific kit over another, but suggest a selection of bandages, a few gauze pads, some medical tape, a pair of non-latex gloves (I prefer nitrile), and a few wound treatment items.  The American Red Cross has a great list that outlines a decent basic first aid kit on their website.

So, with all this in mind, how can you be better prepared for “the worst” at your workplace?  Leave a comment and let me know!

Stay safe!