Civil unrest can come at any time and anywhere. When it does, sometimes it makes sense to hunker down in a safety zone in the short term instead of leaving the building or going directly on the offensive.
If that temporary sanctuary turns out to be your workplace, here’s a comprehensive to-do list so that you can survive in the first 48 hours:
- Barricade yourself
- Stay warm
- Scavenge supplies
- Hit the crapper
- Get home
The violence that comes with civil unrest is unpredictable.
Everything can change in the blink of an eye, window breaking can escalate to fire-setting can become robbery. It is inevitable given the mass of people with less than desirable objectives in mind.
So the first thing you need to address is to protect yourself from these external forces.
- Talk to your co-workers and come up with a plan — Rally all the people in the building, especially any security personnel. Quickly discuss who plans to stay and who plans to go. This also allows you to keep track of people. Once you have established who you’re with, have a longer discussion on how you plan to secure the building.
- Plan emergency exits — Office buildings typically have several emergency exits in place in case of a breach or a fire. Map those out and take note of them in a list.
Examples of emergency exits in the office:
- a dumpster shoot
- access to the rooftop
- a fire escape
- using a fire hose
- Block entrances and exits, windows, and doors — If you’re sheltering in a large multi-story building, blocking all windows and doors on the first levels can be challenging. Find a way to disable the elevators and block the stairwells between the lower and mid-floors.
Once your main entrance is secure, block all other entry points:
- Single Doors — use desks and filing cabinets,
- Windows — desks and filing cabinets can be used here as well,
- Double Doors — tie the handles together with cordage and extensions cords.
Keep in mind that the goal here is to block people from coming in but allow egress if needed. So make sure you have at least one safely guarded emergency exit–even if the building is a single-story. You don’t want to turn your haven into a tomb.
It’s not unusual for the power to cut during emergencies. When this happens during colder weather, you might worry about the entire building having no heat. But fret not, here are several things you can do in an emergency to stay warm:
- Stay in a sunny room — The sun naturally warms up a room as it shines during the day. Look for a small room with large south-facing windows (assuming you live in the Northern Hemisphere) for optimal sunlight. To keep the room’s warmth, cover the windows at night.
- Pack your room with dark-colored, dense objects — The darker a thing is, the more it’s able to absorb sunlight and produce heat. Meanwhile, denser objects hold heat longer–think of it as a thermal battery.
- Make a nest — If the first two options are not enough to stay warm, we’ll need to borrow practices from the wild.
In winter, the humble squirrel builds a nest and stays warm there throughout. The idea is about “dead air space.” As the squirrel’s body heats the air around the nest, warm air stays in the nest, warming up the squirrel. We’re going to emulate that idea here.
- Group 1-3 people in a small space. This is optional, but the extra body heat helps.
- Build up a faux mattress. Stack Styrofoam or cardboard on top of each other.
- Create the “nest.” Surround the area with crumpled paper, bubble wrap, or anything else with insulation value. You can also use trash bags with crumpled papers as a sleeping bag.
Even as you take shelter in the office, it’s best to know what’s going on outside. So run through these different appliances to establish communication channels:
- Phones — If anyone’s phone still works, reach your local law enforcement first for any updates. Try both emergency and non-emergency lines.
- Computers — Workplaces are usually filled with these. If power is still in place, check local media channels and social media posts about the emergency.
- Battery-powered radio — Once the power is out and your phone runs out of battery, the radio is your best bet. Scan for local news broadcasts to get updates.
While the safest option for people sheltering in the people is to stay together, you might find yourselves needing to separate. Whether it’s looking for supplies, enforcing defenses, or simply going to the bathroom, always establish a point of contact to reach each other. Consider using walkie-talkies or small radios to communicate.
The availability of valuable items and supplies will depend on the nature of your workplace. Regardless, be resourceful and crafty with whatever you find.
Here’s a handy checklist of assets to look out for in the modern office:
- Food and beverages — water cooler jugs, vending machines, desks, break rooms
- Self-defense — fire axes and extinguishers
- Insulation — cardboard, styrofoam, trash bag full of crumped paper, duct tape
HIT THE CRAPPER
Human waste is inevitable, especially considering that you’re hunkering down for two days. So you’ll have to figure out a safe and practical way to deal with it.
If the water is still running, you’re in good shape. Office bathrooms can still be used as normal. However, when the water’s off, that’s where the challenge comes in.
But all is not hopeless. Check out the janitor’s closet, and a couple of 5-gallon buckets can come to the rescue. Stuff the bottom with shredded newspaper, copy paper, and other bits of similar material.
For maintenance, make sure to do the following after each use:
- First, add more paper to the bucket after each use.
- For odor control, spray or splash the buckets with bleach cleaner or liquid bleach.
- Seal with a lid when not in use.
Trust us; you’ll want to keep this for defense against outsiders. Don’t use it in the office.
Two days of the civil unrest event has come and you’ve done everything on this list:
- Keep safe and warm in your makeshift shelter.
- Communicate with loved ones and the outside.
- Gather supplies.
By this time, you might be tempted to leave the safety of your office.
Once you do decide to leave before the civil unrest event has ended, expect to face many people who are up to no good. So what can you do on the way home?
There are three very different options to stay safe on the way home:
- Disguise yourself as a dissident — This can help you make your way through the crowd but is a temporary defense. Avoid any military or law enforcement personnel.
- Leave the building as a group — If you spot any peacekeepers outside, seek out an escort to help your group out of the area. Dressing in business attire will help.
- Look like a homeless person — If you decide to leave the building alone and there’s no peacekeeping force around, this is your next best option.
How to look like a homeless person:
- Smear dirt on your face and scruffle your hair.
- Use trash or other foul-smelling items to make yourself smell bad.
- Dress in oversized, mismatched clothes from the office lost-and-found.
- Pack some food, water, and weapons–makeshift or legitimate–in a trash bag. Sling this over your shoulder.
Resembling like a homeless person, you can either be harassed by thugs or ignored altogether. Good luck!