The vast majority of people spend more than eight hours per day at their workplace. We often dedicate a lot of time to improve ourselves and get better at our jobs, but we keep ignoring the elephant in the room. Few people actually spend time thinking about what they would do if the brown stuff hits the fan and they are stuck at work. Your workplace plays an important role in your survival during a bug out or bug in scenario and you should make sure you have a backup plan.
Real threats face us every day in the workplace and I’m not talking here about post-apocalyptic survival scenarios. Even a short-term natural disaster or social upheaval can cause a lot of discomforts or worse if you are not prepared. Have you taught about workplace survival? Do you know what threats you will have to face at your workplace?
You probably know a lot about your coworkers and their habits. However, Jane bothering you with her cat stories is not really a life-threatening situation. Rather than figuring out ways to avoid your colleagues with halitosis, you should put some effort into analyzing, mitigating and preparing for the real threats that you may need to face when it hits the fan.
For most people, it’s hard to look at their workplace and figure out what could go wrong there. Being able to assess with an analytical mind a place that is so familiar is not an easy job, especially if you have worked there, your “entire life”.
Considering your self-preservation and maximum protection of life, there are two distinctions you need to make when it comes to threats in the workplace. When making a threat analysis, you should consider the following categories.
Natural threats at your workplace
This category includes weather events such as floods, earthquakes, storm blizzards and natural fires. While these crisis scenarios usually follow the same pattern, you should take a look at the real and most common natural threats in your area. Find out when they last happen and do a little research and find the data that show when they might happen again.
For example, the probability of a wildfire to occur is much higher than a tsunami if your workplace is situated in a largely forested area. If you work in one of the many resorts from Hawaii, a blizzard can be considered a minimal risk, but an erupting volcano will be at the top of your list when making the assessment.
Each and every threat that is relevant to your area should have a preparedness plan and certain workplaces do have specific protocols for evacuation in case of a natural disaster. If you want to figure out what you should prepare for without taking a wild guess, speak with someone who has worked there for a long time. They know the history of the place and they will be able to tell you more about what happened in the past. We should hear the stories of our predecessors and we should learn from their failures and successors. This is a life lesson that can be applied everywhere and not just at your workplace.
Man-made threats at your workplace
This category is quite complex and the randomness factor plays an important role here. To keep it simple, you have to understand that there are basically two categories of risk here: external and internal.
For internal threats, we can include here all type of scenarios that include active killer scenarios. Anything from arson, to deliberate power outages or even an active killer scenario. Although it’s unlikely to happen, if Jane loses all her cats she may go on a killing spree, blaming everyone for her loss.
Even more, when it comes to internal threats, not only your co-workers could become a problem, but also people related to them. If one of your co-workers has an abusive, jealous spouse, they might come down to the office to settle some personal scores. This will create ramifications from everyone at work, especially if firearms are involved.
When it comes to external risks, these represent the human factor outside the employ of your workplace. Even customers can turn into a real threat when given the opportunity. If you work at a company or government agency that handles large sums of money or have the ability to affect the lives of strangers in a major way, you could be looking at a high-risk scenario.
The human factor is highly unpredictable and everyone can “snap” after being pushed or bullied for a long time. The good news is that most of these people have the tendency of broadcasting their intentions either through direct interaction (like telling someone close to them) or indirect interaction (like posting it on social media). This can be a huge clue and if you manage to spot it, you will know what to do and how to dodge the bullet.
Related reading: Prepper’s Threat Analysis – Establishing Prepping Priorities
What can you do about threats in your workplace?
Well, the first thing you need to consider is mitigation. Being able to understand the high-probability risks you may face also enables you to act upon them. Creating a trust-worthy culture and rewarding behaviors that improve the safekeeping of everyone at the workplace is the first step.
Discussing about what people should do in case there’s an office fire and making people understand that security is their responsibility will make everyone chip in and keep the workplace safe. “If you see something, say something” also applies in the workplace and improves awareness but also empowers people. If a coworker notifies the management that there aren’t any (or enough) first aid supplies in the office, it raises awareness about the risks this issue may cause and it also helps people unite against a common goal, their safety.
This is pretty explanatory and it should be practiced at least once a year in your workplace. Every employee should be able to understand what they need to do in case there’s an emergency and where are the emergency exits. Even more, in case other exits could be used by the employees and let’s say these exit points might require an access card, people should know where to get it or who to call for.
There should be a reunification point established so that everyone can reach the same place. In case someone is missing, they will know about it and will be able to communicate with a supervisor or the first responder teams. Just because you make it out, that doesn’t mean you should forget about your colleagues. There might be things only you know about them and that info will help find them faster.
Also, if you manage to evacuate and everyone else is accounted for, you should make sure you are able to get home. A get home bag is critical especially if you have to travel long distances to and from your workplace.
Sheltering in place
When natural disasters are involved, hunkering down may be your only chance of survival. Staying inside will minimize risk from external threats such as tornadoes. However, you should have a dedicated place for sheltering in, somewhere that is clear of glass windows and other potential hazards (high shelves, decorative art, etc.).
And last but not least, when establishing a place inside your workplace for hunkering down, make sure everyone has room and that resources are available to go around. Eating your stashed chips or drinking water while everyone else is starving or going thirsty may lead to conflicts.
Man-made threats seem to increase with every passing year and terrorist attacks and active shooter scenarios are present now more than ever. Surviving an active shooter scenario requires proper knowledge and people should know how to respond to such an attack.
This is a rather complex subject and you can find more information in this article I wrote a while back. To sum it up, you will need to pinpoint the dangers zone and number of shooters, make the decision of evacuating or sheltering in place based on the info you have, and last but not least decide if you can help others or save your skin based on various developing factors.
The government recommends to run, hide and fight, but that’s not as easy as it sounds. If you can’t run and all your options of hiding are exhausted, you need to improvise before putting up a fight. Since you know the workplace better than anyone else you should be able to set the battleground to your advantage and arm yourself with and use everything available to make it out alive.
The problem with survival in the workplace is that sometimes you might find yourself making decisions in a split second. Creating a trust-worthy culture in the work environment has nothing to do with your survival rate. If it hits the fan it will be every man or woman for himself/herself.
This may imply leaving your co-workers behind or becoming alpha and trying to save everyone. But before ending up in that critical point, you should evaluate what threats you might actually face, discuss with the leadership about emergency preparation and study your work environment. Any effort you invest no will save you a lot of time during a real emergency and you may avoid having to take some decisions that are hard to live with.