How to Avoid Getting Trapped in Your Office Building

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This post is by Bernie Carr,

I work in a high rise building downtown.  The other day I had the terrifying experience of getting trapped in an elevator with six other people.  It was lunch time and two out of four elevators were not working.  A crowd was forming to get on the two remaining elevators.  When I finally got my turn, six other people came in with me.  I already felt closed in, being in such tight quarters.  The doors closed and the elevator proceeded to move down.  The elevator suddenly stopped and everyone started looking around uncomfortably.  People started shuffling their feet.  It was a terrible feeling – what if this lasts a long time?  The guy closest to the emergency button pressed it and a loud buzzer sounded.  It felt like an eternity, but after about three minutes the elevator started moving again.  I got off the next stop even though it was not my floor.  I had uncomfortable shoes on, but I took the stairs 10 floors down.

This happened on a regular day, and it was scary enough.  Imagine if there were an emergency, power is going on and off and everyone is trying to get off the upper floors all at once.  The elevators would be jam packed and overweight, exceeding the weight limit.  There would be more chances of a breakdown.

I realize even if you are one of the first to leave there are still lots of others trying to leave at the same time.  People may be orderly at first, but that is until someone starts to panic.  Panic spreads quickly and before your know it, chaos can ensue. 

Get in the mindset to prepare in case of emergency and you find yourself at work.

1.  Know where the stairwells are located and where they lead.

2.  Stock your desk with bottled water and non perishable food just in case.

3.  Keep a pair of comfortable shoes in your desk drawer, just in case you have to run down the stairs or have to walk home.

4.  Keep a few emergency items such as a flashlight if you have to find your way out in the dark, extra jacket or blanket, Swiss Army knife umbrella or rain gear etc.

5.  Assemble a small First Aid kit for your desk.  Include personal necessities such as contact lens solution, extra pair of glasses, asthma inhaler, or other prescription medications etc. just in case you are unable to leave for a day or two.

6.  Plan a walking route in case the parking lot is inaccessible and have to walk home.

7.  Have alternate routes home, and paper maps to guide you if your GPS is not working.  Of course, you already have a car survival kit right?

8.  Be aware of what’s going on in your area – check the news on TV in the break room if you can, read the news online if you have access.

9.  If there is an impending natural disaster, or bad weather has already started early in the morning, consider staying home from work and taking the day off.  Sometimes the best precaution is just to stay away.

10.  It is a good idea to know who among your co-workers live in your area, so you can share a ride in case of emergency.

11.  Trust your gut.  Don’t hesitate to leave your office if an emergency happens and your gut tells you it is time to leave.

12.  Know all the exits out of your office, the building as well as parking garage exits.

Make a plan on how you would handle a disaster at work now before an emergency occurs.  Thinking ahead will help you avoid panic and stay calm no matter what happens.

© Apartment Prepper 2015

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  1. I just started a job that didn’t have a desk drawer. no cabinet, just a table & a computer. There’s not even a place to separate my purse from the guy next to me if I don’t take it to the bathroom with me. So I’m trying to figure out how to do my work preps in this situation…

    that & now I’m parking in the basement of a garage. So I’m trying to remember if it’s better to park near a support pillar or not every other place i’ve worked in the past had outdoor parking in a lot

    1. Hi sk84, You’d have to rely on your “everyday carry” if you have no storage at work. Perhaps you can carry a small backpack to hold a few supplies, in addition to your purse. You can also keep your lunch in there. For safety I would not park next to the pillar, as it could be a place to hide if someone is trying to rob you. Be careful in the basement garage, always watch your surroundings. Thanks for the comment!

  2. Really great ideas, Bernie. I work for a large, multi-national business, and we have fire or tornado drills every so often, but that’s it. A select group of management in our building meets every so often to discuss business continuation in the event of a disaster, but that info is never disseminated to the workforce, and I’m pretty certain it doesn’t include consideration for the individual worker … if these folks think I’m going to walk 10 miles to my home carrying my work computer, they can guess again ….. thanks for the article!

    1. Hi Sharon, I am glad you found the article helpful. I know there are a lot of us working downtown in high rises. As you mentioned, except for the occasional fire or tornado drill, safety in a disaster is rarely discussed. Thanks for the comment!

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