But I’m Working Now

Creating Your Work Evacuation Plan

As much as we’d like to, we don’t get to choose our disaster or where we will be when it strikes. Best case: entire family home together with all our ‘stuff’ available; worst case: stuck in an airport, alone, with none of your preps. How about something in between, what if you’re at work?

Remember school fire drills? We’d all neatly file from our classrooms with the teacher leading us, like a mommy duck, to our designated spot in the playground. They’d take roll to account for everyone; that’d be reported to the principal, then we’d all file back inside.

Fast forward to today where you’re sitting at work. Something is wrong and you have to evacuate. It’s not a drill, there’s no teacher to lead you, or principal to account for you. Hopefully you know how to safely evacuate your own building, but what next? We’re all grown up now; we must have our own plan of what to do if an emergency occurs when we’re at work.

This is another one of those things where I can’t tell you what to do; you’ll have to develop your own plan. But I can tell you what Sarah and I have planned, and our contingencies.

Sarah and I both work in Seattle (about 45 miles from our home). Ironically we only work about a mile apart. Sarah commutes on the train working traditional hours. I drive to work and have a ‘non-traditional’ schedule. Each week there are three days we both work there (but only in the afternoons), two days she’s in Seattle alone, and one day only I’m there. We’ve had to come up with multiple plans that vary based on the day of the week.

So if we’re both there, she would come up the hill to where I work. My workplace is more secure, further from the water, and away from the downtown congested high-rise area. In case I have to leave work also, we’ve discussed what street she would walk up and what side of the street she would be on. We have contingency plans of where to meet if we both had to leave and we didn’t (or couldn’t) meet up on that street. If it’s only me, since I drive I have my car and BOB; I also have friends I could stay with in the area if necessary. If only she is there, she’ll make the decision if it’s okay to take the train home, or if it’d be better to stay at a predetermined friend’s home in the area. She also has a family member who works near her (and who drives to work) and has made plans of where to meet and try to get somewhere safer together.

Also since Sarah rides to work on public transportation, everything she has for the day is in her backpack. In addition to her normal work stuff, she has a miniature version of her BOB; she also wears good walking shoes back and forth to work. At work she keeps extra water, food, and a change of clothes.

We’ve also discussed communication:

  • if cell phones aren’t getting through, we’ll try a landline
  • if “all circuits are busy”, we’ll try a predetermined long-distance relative
  • if landlines don’t work, we’ll try texting (texts frequently go through even when voice calls don’t)
  • if texting doesn’t work, we’ll try email (if necessary, moving to a wireless area to email on the phone)
  • if none of those options are available, we have a predetermined place to leave a written note

Of course all the “what ifs” can’t be covered. The important thing is to take the time to think about what you’d do if an emergency happened when you were at work. Then develop and discuss your plan with family members. It costs nothing and, in this crazy world we live in today, it’s one less thing to worry about.

(Wednesday: Never Buy A Replacement Blade)

Location, Location, Location

five basic needs: 1) food, 2) water, 3) SHELTER, 4) security, and 5) energy

Shelter, Shelter, Shelter.

All locations are not created equal; big city, suburbs, small town, rural area. Where do you live? Your location will determine what type of disasters you are more likely to encounter, what services will be available in the aftermath, and the potential risks to your family and home during that emergency. A disaster that is catastrophic in one setting, may have very little effect in another.

Example: An apartment in a large city vs. a house in a rural community when an 8.5 earthquake strikes. City: gas, water, and electric lines break, fires start, water pressure drops, buildings partially collapse, debris falls, power is out, traffic gridlocks, the dense population panics. Rural: things fall off shelves, maybe the power goes out and you have to use your generator for a few days.

Some disasters, like the earthquake or a terrorist attack, give us no notice and all we can do is work to recover afterward. But others, like a hurricane, pandemic, or flooding give us time and the opportunity to make an informed decision.

<cue Should I Stay or Should I Go? by The Clash>

The decision: Bug in or bug out (stay or go)? If you bug in, what are your contingency plans to compensate for potential lost services: food, water, security, energy? If you choose to bug out (or have to), where are you going? What do you take if you leave? What do you leave if you, um, leave? What route are you going to take to get to your bug out location (BOL)? You also need to consider the ‘leave right now’ disaster where there are only minutes to evacuate, like a fire, or a gas leak.

With so many factors affecting this decision, how do you decide to stay or go? You analyze the situation, think about your plan, and ultimately decide: Am I most likely better off if I stay, or better off if I go?

If you choose to go, having a pre-determined plan is invaluable. Once the disaster starts, people may be scared, disoriented, separated, or hurt; it may be dark and/or cold (don’t ‘these things’ alway happen at night?), if we have a plan, we all at least know where to start. A written evacuation plan needs to include: 1) a ‘short list’ of what to grab quickly before you leave your home, 2) multiple routes to get out of your area and to your BOL(s), and 3) an extensive list of contact information for people and businesses in your life.

‘I don’t have anywhere to go,’ you say. If that’s truly the case, then you stay. But a temporary BOL may be as simple as a motel in a ‘safer’ area. Determine that area, one with several motels; make a list of their numbers in your evacuation plan. If you decide to leave, call early and get reservations. Motels frequently have generators and their own disaster plan in place.

Or, talk with a friend or family member; don’t just ask if you can go to their home, but agree to be each other’s BOL if necessary. Create a plan together. If you live in the city and they are rural consider pre-staging items in their home. But, if you’re city, why would they evacuate to you? A local emergency and they just need somewhere to stay a night or two.

We plan for the most likely disruptions first: personal injury, fire, local emergency, local weather. The catastrophic ones: major natural disaster, pandemics, terrorist attacks; if they come, will still require similar plans and preps. Developing an evacuation plan costs no money, only time – take that time now when things are calm (relatively speaking) so you can be ready when things aren’t.

(Wednesday: No, You Can’t Take It)