Workplace Emergencies: Looking Professional But Being Prepared

Workplace Emergencies: Looking Professional But Being Prepared | CorporetteI’m going to caveat this reader question and my response — ultimately about workplace emergencies — by noting up front that yes, we’re going to talk about some of the tiny, minuscule details regarding working in such trying times, namely how to look professional while also being prepared to, you know, hide and run at any moment. You can’t talk about this stuff without acknowledging the bigger issues — the terror and high alert we all live in, the strength of the men and women who work through the fear, and what many see as lackluster laws and/or enforcement. But then again: this is a fashion blog, not The Atlantic — so let’s talk about workplace fashion as it relates to workplace emergencies. Here’s Reader A’s question:

In light of recent events, my workplace held an active shooter training that was both terrifying and thought-provoking. The leader suggested, among other things, that employees make sure to carry their home/car keys and cell phone on their person at all times (as opposed to in your purse/bag). This isn’t hard if you consistently have pockets — but I wear a lot of dresses and skirts that don’t have pockets. I was wondering how others might manage this situation.

We live in such crazy, difficult times right now — I’m simultaneously glad for Reader A that she had some training and sorry she was terrified. I remember summering at my law firm in 2002 (in the Financial District, walking distance from Ground Zero); we were advised to keep sneakers in our office and were given a lunch bag with things like an emergency blanket and a protein bar. These days, it creeps me out that my son’s pre-K says they have an emergency shooter plan (but hooray for prep?). As far as being prepared for emergencies at the office — we’ve talked about attractive ID holders before, as well as emergency preparation — and even about professional pants with pockets — but not in a while, so let’s discuss. (2016 Update: check out our roundup of sleeved dresses with pockets, too!) I’m curious to hear what the readers think, but here’s my advice:

  • Keep something with pockets to wear at the office that you can throw on over everything. This is more difficult for women (at least, those of us not doctors) because finding garments with functional pockets is no small feat. (And even if you can find them, the pockets are often too small for much more than a single key, tube of lipstick, or, hey, a tampon — things like a clunky iPhone or a jangly keychain* don’t always easily fit inside.) That said, several of the longer cardigans that are in right now have big pockets — such as this Ralph Lauren one, this Vince one, or this Halogen one. Another idea: seek out blazers with patch pockets, which usually are meant to be functional. On the affordable end this Gibson blazer or this Tahari blazer both look nice; on the higher end check out this Rag & Bone blazer. Note that with either a sweater or a blazer, if you fill pockets with heavy things the garments will hang differently — but if you need to shove your stuff somewhere it’s better than nothing. Of course, you can also search Nordstrom for dresses (or pants, or jackets) with pockets; this reader favorite Lands’ End dress also comes with pockets. (Here are my previous thoughts on what to look for in that “blazer you keep at the office.”)
  • Carry a zippered padfolio as your notepad. This was my solution, at least for days where I knew I’d be working in a conference room or something and wanted to bring the same personal supplies with me every time, like my phone, lip gloss, tape flags, Post-it notes, etc. It was kind of like a grown-up version of a Trapper Keeper, but I thought looked pretty professional, and it was easy enough to carry with me.
  • Find a smart phone wristlet. I’ve often touted wristlets as being great for running to a local spot for lunch, but they would also work in this situation; an envelope clutch could also work, particularly a big one like this Victoria Beckham one we featured a while ago. A more trendy version of the wristlet, of course, is the crossbody (or if we REALLY want to talk trendy, the fanny pack) — but know your office before going for either of those options.
  • A note on shoes. I never think anyone should wear shoes they can’t walk in — if you happen to work in a high-risk area (such as near a potential big target like a tourist spot or well-known building, or in a public space, such as a law school library or a hospital), you definitely should consider your footwear. And everyone should keep at least one pair of old sneakers in the office, as well as socks or whatever else you need to make them comfortable.

Ladies, what are your thoughts on looking professional while also being prepared for potential workplace emergencies? Have you changed anything about your outfits (shoes, pockets, etc.) to definitely make yourself more prepared? Are there particular days of the year that you feel most vulnerable and dress differently (e.g., September 11 or April 20)? In general, how is your anxiety level — what are you (and your office) doing to make your office a safer place?

*A lot of car dealerships sell extra keys (even fancy car keys with chips in them) for a fee; it may be worth it to just have a single key on you at all times. Here’s a Reddit thread on ways to do it more frugally, though.

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  1. This is a great THOUGHT – PROVOKEING p’ost, Kat and Kate–it highlight’s that we ALL need contingency plan’s and at least in the case of OUR firm, we do NOT have one.

    Beside’s having a change of clothe’s in the office and comforteable shoe’s, the ONLEY OTHER thing I think should be added to this great list is that there should be a file on each of our iphone’s with the NAMES, Addresses, Telephone and e-mails of EVERY person in the firm (includeing assistant’s), so that if there is an EMERGENCY, such as 9-11, or even a power outage or flood in the buildeing, that we can send (or receive) a BLAST-email from the manageing partner telling us either 1) to come in; 2) NOT to come in or 3) to go somewhere else. Our firm has good busness relation’s with a number of restrunt’s, so in a pinch, the manageing partner can call up and rent a room with electric that we can all go to and plug our computer’s into. He also has a freind at the Bar Association that could lend us some space (at cost), so that we can go and do stuff rather then sitting home and watcheing OPRAH in a pinch. This is a VERY thought provokeing post, Kat and Kate, and thank you for bringeing it up. I am sure other’s in the HIVE will have other idea’s.

  2. Anon for this :

    “Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet”. (General James Mattis)

  3. A few years ago I signed up to be a floor warden at work. I did it mainly so I could get free CPR and AED training and that was great. But I learned a lot more about emergency preparedness than I expected, and I’m grateful to have the training.

    There are lots of situations where we would need to use the stairs to evacuate (earthquake for example) so part of the training was to recommend everyone keep “walkable” shoes at their desks. This isn’t just for you. Hobbling down the stairs in high heels may be something you know you can do, but you’re going to slow everyone down behind you. Think of all the people who never made it out of the World Trade Center stairwells.

    The idea of “walkable” footwear made me rethink my footwear choices overall. Remind me why I am wearing shoes I can’t walk in? Have I just hobbled myself for fashion? It really got me thinking about how ridiculous this was. Since then I really only wear 2″ or shorter heels, usually much shorter.

    The other thing that the training really brought home for me is the importance of fire drills. I know they’re annoying. I know they interrupt your conference calls or meetings. I feel the same way. But did you know that people who die in office fires are often trying to go to the wrong emergency exit? You should know all of the emergency exits on your floor, not just the one nearest you. He idea of drills is to put that trip to the emergency exit into your muscle memory so that when something happens and you are panicked, you don’t have to think too hard about where the safest exit is.


    1) don’t wear stupid shoes
    2) fire drills are your friend

    • Wildkitten :

      I don’t think I’ve ever heard of anyone dying in an office fire, though BLM data says 52 people died in workplace fires in 2014. I wonder how many of those were office workers as opposed to people in like, fertilizer factories. I think this is a very low risk.

      • There are only about 5,000 workplace fatalities per year in the US.

        All of the events described are remote. Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do our best to be aware & prepare.

        • But it does mean that we should think about the actual risk versus the impacts the preparations have on our lives. I’m all for fire drills and shoes you can walk in, but some of the stuff suggested in this post seems way out of whack with the actual risks to me.

    • I’m also an “emergency response coordinator” for my company. I thought our training was really good, I actually learned more than I thought I would. I learned how to use a fire extinguisher.

      I really think everyone should be trained on CPR/AED, basic first aid and fire extinguishers. It’s really good info, you never know when an emergency might happen. Work, home, out in public. It could happen anywhere.

  4. Wildkitten :

    PSA – Patagonia Vosque 50% off

  5. Coach Laura :

    I’ve been trained as a shelter-in-place first responder (that is after earthquake, terrorist attack in the workplace) and went through 160 hours of training over several years in bandaging, splinting, delivering babies, use of body bags, and managing head trauma injuries etc. At my office in a backpack I keep sweatshirts/sweatpants, T-shirts, old running shoes, socks, leather work gloves, nitrile exam gloves, headlamp, flashlights, ibuprofen, bandages, splints, space blankets and enough energy bars to last 72 hours. In Seattle, our FD says that if the big quake hits, we will have to shelter-in-place in the building for 72 hours and that the broken glass on the street would be about three feet high, so planning is important.

    I’ve not done active shooter training but have done some research on it.

    And yes, I take my cell phone EVERYWHERE. Restroom, meeting down the hall, when I get lunch. I keep it charged as much as possible and keep a cord and a backup charger in my purse at all times. Car keys no, because I take transit to work and home is across a lake over a bridge that may or not survive a quake. I usually have pockets and when I don’t I use my wallet on a strap to hold it.

    Good topic, Kat.

    • Diana Barry :

      I have never thought about taking my phone to the bathroom – seems to me like more trouble than it’s worth and I would drop it in the toilet.

    • Three foot high glass? Yikes! Time to bring the work boots to work.

      • Yeah, how do you even deal with three foot high glass? That’s like waist-deep. Can you walk over it at that point?

        • Coach Laura :

          The glass on the street is one reason that they say we’ll be safer in our tall office tower…with all the windows blown out. Not a nice scenario.

  6. Wildkitten :

    I understand that you might want your car keys on your person, but I’m less convinced about house keys, if someone else has keys to your house. For example, I’d happily shelter in place at starbucks or the local bar while waiting for my SO to bring keys to me (and have done so in non-emergencies when I just forget my keys).

    • But…. isn’t the point that you can’t necessarily hunker down at a Starbucks or bar during an emergency? And your SO might not be able to reach you? Like, I honestly can’t figure out if you are kdding in your post.

      • Wildkitten :

        Not kidding. I’m genuinely unaware of any emergency that would close the local bars. 9/11, earthquake, hurricanes, active shooters…. none closed the bars. I mean. It’s possible, I guess. Bars were probably closed when the police were searching Boston after the marathon? I could also go to a neighbor’s house if I needed to be in a home for some reason.

        • Anonymous :

          What? 9/11 absolutely closed local bars. Earth quake and hurricanes too. (Was in NY in 2001 and now in DC for 8 years). The point is you want to get home if you need to leave the city. Want to be able to grab some stuff.

        • In Boston, during the search for the marathon bomber, nothing was officially closed. That is, coffee shops and the like were allowed to stay open. Some were closed, because the employees didn’t get into work. But there was no official edict that all businesses had to be closed.

          • Anonymous :

            Well, Boston had a “shelter in place” order for 24-48 hours, so people were supposed to be home. Any individuals who were not at home, unless emergency or medical personnel, were in violation of the order.

        • Ice storm in the deep south cut off electricity to my town for over a week, when the downtown came back on. Everything shut down. A car hit a water main and since there was no power, we also had no water for two days. I was without power for 21 days. It can happen even in today’s high tech world.

    • Meg Murry :

      I almost always carry my car keys on me (usually clipped to a carbiner clip on a belt loop with my work keyfob), and I have a spare housekey and emergency cash in my glove compartment in an Altoids tin. I also wear pants with pockets almost every day and carry a small wallet in my pocket, not purse, and my phone in the other pocket.

      However, in my case it’s not due to active shooter but because I have worked in the past in factories that had evacuation drills or “oops, someone screwed up and set off the sprinkler system” every few months. My coworkers at an early job had a horror story of everyone being locked out of the building for 6 hours in early winter due to a small fire and almost no one had their car keys (or coats for that matter, since they went straight from the factory floor to the outdoors), so the handful of coworkers with keys were letting people huddle in their cars until a family member could pick them up – and at least the men had their wallets on them, most women didn’t because they were indoors in a purse.

      I am not especially worried about an active shooter type evacuation, and I think I have the “if my office is evacuated” part down – my next step is to work on what I have in my trunk for if I am stranded in my car due to a weather emergency or car accident. I’ve got a blanket and snacks, I need to add spare shoes and a few other items.

      • Meg Murry :

        I should add that I’m in a very casual workplace, so jeans or 5-pocket style pants are considered acceptable. I also have ADHD and a bad habit of losing track of things, so I have always carried a men’s wallet or small women’s card wallet that fit in my pockets since I was a teenager. If my wallet isn’t in my left pocket and my phone in my right with my keys on my hip, I spend all day tapping my hips looking for them.

        I have a wristlet that my phone will technically cram into, but I’d like to find one a little bit bigger that would comfortably hold my phone in it’s giant case and my wallet. I probably need to just add a wrist strap to a small clutch or zippered pouch instead of continuing to search for the just right sized wristlet that doesn’t seem to exist.

        • Minnie Beebe :

          Lo & Sons Smartphone wristlet! It holds my iPhone 6 Plus, credit cards and ID and some cash. And it’s not obnoxioulsy girly (not that there’s anything wrong with this– I also own a hot pink Michael Kors wallet!) so would be easy to carry into meetings and whatnot.

  7. I’m a congressional staffer on Capitol Hill, and we regularly have evacuation and shelter in place drills. I have colleagues that had to evacuate on 9-11. I carry my phone with me everywhere–even to the bathroom–and always wear shoes that I feel like I could run in. I’m out of my office so much at meetings, hearings, etc that if a disaster hit, the chance that I would be at my desk and able to change my shoes is low. (Also, if you hear shooting/a bomb/whatever, are you really going to sit there and change your shoes?)

    I am so glad that more dresses these days have pockets, though – makes it so much easier to carry my phone!

    • When I was an intern on Capitol Hill in 2003, there was a scare where we had to evacuate when a plane flew too close. (Turned out to be nothing, but everyone was on high alert after 9-11 and was RUNNING out of the building). I had ridiculously high heels and had to take them off to run. Didn’t really matter, but obviously would have been better if I had shoes.

  8. I’m just really, really sad this has to be a consideration now. It’s just vastly depressing (but necessary I know).

  9. I was in Boston for the marathon bombing and learned a few takeaways the hard way. Have a Plan B that does not involve using your smart phone. Phone towers were overloaded and people couldn’t get through. I had used my gps all day to get around so the battery was low to begin with. Trying to constantly re-connect to a tower used the rest of the battery in about 20 minutes after the bombing. I now keep an emergency battery charger in my purse. My husband had a new work cell phone and I couldn’t remember the phone number. The only number I could remember without my phone was my parents. We were using the “drop a pin” to remember where we left my car at various points throughout the day. I wouldn’t have known the street or town it was in without my phone. Luckily, I had moved it to Alewife prior to going to the finish so even though I couldn’t get back to it easily, I did know where it was. I wasn’t sure how to get to anything without my maps though. Now, when I know I need to get from one place to another and back, I print out a google map to throw in my purse in case I can’t use my phone.

    +1 to shoes you can run in.

    Is there anything you would really really really want to have with you if you had to be away from home for a night? It was a day trip so I didn’t have medication with me that I really shouldn’t skip.

    The advice about keeping your keys/phone on you makes a lot of sense because in a work emergency, you aren’t going to be running back up to your office. You are going to head out the door. I never really thought about that one before.

    Have a plan in place (similar to fire drills) in your head about what you would do if you had to hide. How would you barricade your door? Is there anything you could use as a weapon? An emergency escape route? Just looking in my personal office, I could close and lock my door and move a couch in front of it. I could hide behind a wall that juts out in the middle that would be less obvious than hiding under my desk. There is a big metal leg that goes to my standing desk that I could use as a blunt object if necessary. I could also go out my window onto a lower roof, hang off that, and be within a reasonably safe distance of hitting the sidewalk.

    The number one thing I think people should pick up generally is situational awareness. I’ve been in court where someone had an altercation with the police in the hallway. The police are yelling at him from one side of the hall and he is on the other. Oblivious people kept walking in between angry guy and police. This is a situation where you want to go around.

    There was a bank robbery across the street from my work and the police were searching for the guy, actively, with large guns. No one seemed to care in my office and were just going about their day. I suggested we lock the door until the suspect was found or the search called off and stay away from with windows until the long guns were put away.

    • +1 to reliance on cell phones. It sounds so obvious, but really – how often is your cell fully charged? And great point about the GPS draining the battery too… sometimes a full battery just isn’t sufficient.

      I was also in Boston, at the marathon, searching for family and with family searching for me. Because of that experience, the two simple fixes I will always do: have a fully charged spare battery in my bag, and I will always have a land-line telephone in my home.

      • I got a landline in my house and a corded phone that doesn’t require electricity for emergencies.

        • Rose gold -- no thanks :

          We have one old school phone (corded) and use it just to call the power company during our frequent outages. My children have *no idea* what it is.

          I probably need to teach them (it’s not so old that it has a dial, but they probably would need to learn that too at some point).

          • I keep a landline because

            1) it comes with my internet service,

            2) it makes working from home conference calls 100x better

            but most importantly
            3) I keep my “earthquake phone” (a corded old school phone) plugged into it.

          • @ anon at 2:48 – if it comes w/ your internet, is it really a landline or is it VOIP? If it is VOIP, you are just as screwed as the cell users if there is no power. Neither my office nor my home has a real true landline anymore. (Hardwired to the phone line, not the internet).

          • I’m anon @2:48. Yeah, it’s an old school landline. What I’m saying is that when I added high speed internet, the package deal covered the cost of the landline monthly charges.

            The phone works when my internet is down and when the power is out.

          • My cable provider didn’t offer a regular landline in my apartment building, it’s all VOIP. I was so mad to learn this – now I feel like I have nothing in an emergency! I don’t know that there’s anything I can do about it, though.

    • Sydney Bristow :

      My husband says that sometimes when the cell towers are overloaded that you can occasionally get connected to someone outside the area. We have plans to relay messages through our parents in different cities if necessary and possible.

      • Just anecdata, but I couldn’t get out of the city (or at all) – tried VERY hard to reach family in the south. I saw their incoming calls and texts but could get nothing out for an extended period of time. The distance calls/texts were the first to free up, but still no where close to immediately after the incident. Family in the south knew we were safe before I could find my Boston family.

        • I think data went up first and people were relaying messages via social media / email. Another note, try to pay attention to where you are. When my husband finally reached me via a friend’s phone I couldn’t even tell him where we were to come pick us up. I was so shook up I didn’t even look at the name of the restaurant we ended up in. I didn’t know what street it was on or what it was near. In the future, if I’m evacuating somewhere, I will try to keep track of where I am actually going.

          • All of these are excellent reasons to also always have a meeting place in a situation where you could be separated- in case of emergency and also in benign cases of phones being out of battery or losing them.

      • Lady Justice :

        +1 During Hurricane Rita, we could not call from Austin to Houston so we had to call a relative in California to be the intermediary and pass messages back and forth.

    • Wildkitten :

      When we had the DC earthquake calls wouldn’t go through but text messages did.

  10. I’ve been working on my office go-bag, so this is a very timely topic for me. Thanks, Kat!

    I have this:

    And I have supplemented it with N95 face masks and swim goggles (recommended in a pandemic or 9/11-like debris in the air), extra protein bars, sunscreen, socks, and shoes. I work the near the mall in DC, so I’m trying to be prepared for a situation like a terrorist attack where I would need to walk home to Maryland in bad conditions.

    I also have given some thought to items in my office that could be used as improvised weapons in case of an active shooter. Our training told us to run, hide, and fight in that order, so I think it’s good to know what you could grab if you have to fight.

  11. Shopping challenged :

    This is a much higher fear level than I want to deal with in my daily life. I don’t know the field this questioner works in, but I find the burden of carrying a reminder of “danger” to be much worse than the actual danger itself, which is infinitesimal for most of us. I always wear shoes I can walk or run a short distance in, and clothes comfortable that they don’t interrupt my concentration, not because of danger, but just so I can function as a full human being. I know the seminar was work-sponsored, but you might want to take a minute to ask how realistic the scenarios in which you’d need your house key and phone with you really are.

    I’m a mom of a 13 year old. I got a cell phone at his pre-school’s insistence. At no point in his life has he been cared for by anyone (other than possible the conference sitter who I fired two days into the conference) who would leave him to fend for himself if there was a civil disturbance, natural disaster, or other event that would keep me from getting back to him.

    If one does find it necessary to follow this advice, I don’t think a wristlet or padfolio fill the bill and a cardigan or other pocket-rich garment would only do so if worn all day, every day at the office. Those can be great options for a tampon or tissue that you might want to take somewhere in the office once in a while, but they do not keep the items on the body all the time, and could easily be dropped or grabbed from you.
    In the 80s, I purchased a small, flat belt bag (shaped more like an envelope than a bag). The belt and latch were flat, so I could easily wear it under my clothing (sort of like a fanny pack, but small and concealed and in front or back). For two keys and an ID, this would be doable at work. There are also small pouches one can wear around the neck. You wouldn’t want the string to be visible at the back of your neck, but you could do that. Only thing I can think of for the phone is a band like joggers wear.
    But again, think twice before accepting fear-mongering.

    • I’m happy that you live/work in an environment on which you don’t have to worry about this. But many of us do, and there’s a difference between “fear-mongering” and making small lifestyle choices in recognition of real risks that exist.

      • Many people do but not that many people who form the core audience of this site – i.e., “overachieving women who work in white collar office jobs in the U.S.” do.

        • Anonymous :

          Yeah good thing no one works in major metropolitan areas where there might be bombings or planes like New York, DC or Boston — or near major landmarks like Times Square or Wall Street. Phew.

          • Sorry, but I work in D.C. next to a major terrorist target. The risk is still tiny and these kind of scare tactics are ridiculous.

          • Right, or all of San Francisco and Oakland and LA, where earthquakes have never happened . . . .

            Late to the conversation, but this is a helpful site from my city:

    • SteelCityMagnolia :

      Congratulations to you for living in a safe, happy, rose-colored world. While you may not have to worry about man-made dangers, you do have to consider Mother Nature. None of us are immune to natural disasters and this advice does double-duty in that realm. To think you do not need to be prepared is to be completely naïve to the point of fooling yourself. Being prepared is not the same “accepting fear-mongering.”

    • Coach Laura :

      Shopping Challenge – not to jump on you but my $0.02 worth of input.

      My preparation is more for earthquakes in earthquake country ( it would be tornados if I lived in the south and hurricanes if I was on the coast). It also works for terrorism like the WTO riots in Seattle in 1998 and 9/11 type events. For active shooter prep, I’m just more aware of who’s around me on the street, in stores/restaurants and while driving.

      BTW, regarding your 13 year old – what if he’s 15 and he goes to the public library after school or is on a sport team travelling on a bus to the away match? I would suggest making plans with him, reviewing them and preparing him to fend for himself in a disaster because it happens unexpectedly. I had my teens memorize their aunt’s phone number in California and we had two local emergency meeting places. No matter what size town you live in, this type of preparation is important if only to be prepared when they are off on their own at college.

    • shopping challenged :

      If you are worried about being prepared for disaster, the place to start is a kit for a car-related emergency, not for the possibility of the building collapsing while you are in the bathroom. The rose-colored world people live in is one that ignores the much higher risks that pop up all the time in our daily lives.

      • But I do have a kit in my car…and my office…and my house. A bug-out bag as someone else said.

  12. Shopping challenged :

    Looking at the comments posted while I was writing mine, the only thing I see that I don’t regularly have with me is swim goggles. Meds, food, etc are in my purse anyway (along with safety pins, tweezers, toothbrush & a bunch of other stuff).

  13. Twice in my life I’ve had workplace emergencies. The first one was my first professional job someone came in and shot his wife at her desk. Very sad.

    The second, I was working late at a non-profit and I was the last one there. The alarm wouldn’t alarm I called the company and they found a door that we never use propped open. The police were called and found out someone from the public was there earlier and planned to come back to rob us. They actually came back between the time I called the alarm company and the time the police arrived. Stupid criminals.

    • That’s very scary.

      This is pretty out there but relevant. I have a friend that is a combat veteran now prosecutor. He retrofitted the Kevlar from his former military vest into the liner of his briefcase. If he ever ends up in an active shooter situation, he can hold his brief case in front of him.

      Most shooters aren’t professionally trained. There is a weird psychological reaction to seeing a barrier, even if it isn’t bullet proof. They will try to shoot around it. So in a worse case scenario, hold up anything. A note pad, a purse, a chair to shield yourself. Even if the bullet would go right through, the shooter will try to shoot around it.

      If you are in a defense situation with a weapon, likewise remember you don’t need to get it out to function. You will be more accurate if you do but you could shoot through your purse or your jacket pocket if necessary.

      • Coach Laura :

        Blond Lawyer – love the recycled Kevlar story – very ingenious.

        Good points about most shooters not being trained.

    • shopping challenged :

      Those sound much more likely than the office tower next door being hit by a plane.

  14. My partner is ex-military and makes his living by advising companies and public institutions (e.g. universities) on disaster and active-shooter preparedness. He also teaches local SWAT teams on marksmanship and offensive tactics. At his suggestion I have the following things at home and should probably duplicate for my office:

    Bug-out bag with change of clothes, sneakers, mylar blankets, water purification tablets, nutrition bars, flashlight, headlamp, first aid kit, emergency cash, empty water bottle, copies of ID docs, whistle. I actually have whistles all over my house in case of earthquake or similar emergency where I am hurt and/or cannot leave the room.

    He wants me to get a firearm and that might be something I’d consider eventually. He has taken me shooting and I shocked everybody at the range by how good I was…but that is different from firing a gun under extreme duress. Honestly I have been pretty horrified when I go shooting with him, seeing all the average Joe avid gun/NRA dudes who cannot hit a target. THOSE are the very people who advocate so loudly for more guns so average citizens can get involved in an altercation…but if they cannot hit a target under ideal firing conditions, how would they fare in a real situation? Probably by hurting or killing even more innocent people.

    It is sad that we have to think about these things. Makes me want to consider an international move at times.

  15. I remember a fire drill at my office a few years back (we didn’t know it was a drill) and a couple of women were teetering on high heels seriously holding back 9 floors of people. Also, living in a city has made me rethink my shoes. I was mugged and needed to run and now will only where shoes I can run in (non heels).

  16. So, my son’s preschool requires all teachers to carry their cell phones and keys on their person at all times. Most of the teachers have really cute cross-body cell phone wallets that go virtually unnoticed. Easy to tuck under a blazer or sweater in and around the office and leaves you without having to constantly grab something. With so many offices that require ID badges to get from one floor to another, wearing an extra small, discreet item like a cross-body cell phone wallet seems to fit the bill here if you want to make sure you phone is always on you without completely inundating your tailor with requests to modify all of your clothes to include smart phone sized pockets.

  17. Anonymous :

    This is probably too late for this thread, but… as a slightly paranoid diabetic, I have a small ’emergency pouch’ I have with me at all times which has, among other things, my meds, a Kind bar, band-aids, hand sanitizer, a tampon and a hair tie. I realise that in cases of real emergency it might be useless, but it’s not that much trouble to slip into my purse/backpack and I have the security of knowing it’s there.

  18. Anonymous :

    Weird, scary crap can happen. Others in my big city, biglaw firm represented a large company against a crazed individual plaintiff. Said crazed plaintiff came to the office, and violently made it past our receptionist with a machete and a tire iron. A MACHETE. Me and one of my colleagues were in a conference room near reception, so saw all this go down. We are both former military and took him down. He caused a lot of property damage, but no injuries aside from me and my taking-down-colleague getting some minor bruises. If we or someone with our physical abilities wouldn’t have been near the entrance, who knows what would have happened.

    We had no security at that point and a key fob was only required at night (insane I know), but now there is a security desk with a guard and a 24-hour key fob.

  19. Anonymous :

    Can’t over emphasize the wonders of having a tailored, invisible pocket for my phone, added to all of my work clothes. It is the type of pocket that is on the inside of a men’s suit jacket (, like the 3rd photo in that link. there is a spot on the side of your pants or suit, where it won’t change the line of the garment or show (roughly the height of an old cowboy gun holster). My tailor puts them in for $20 a pocket. I can then shake hands and hold papers (or any other 2 things) and still have my phone with me. P.S. we unfortunately had an active shooter before our active shooter training. Turns out you don’t even notice your skirt or looking unprofessional when you are in the dark under a colleague’s desk, because that was the nearest door to close.

    • Coach Laura :

      This is genius! I do have two jackets with this type of pocket (they are jackets that are less formal and do not have the normal flap pockets) and I love it. I want to see if my tailor will add them for $20 also.

  20. I live in tornado alley. In fact, Moore Oklahoma is between my office and my house, and I was on my way to the okc federal courthouse when the Murray Building exploded.

    Think of this as storm preparedness not violence preparedness and you will be less freaked out. Second, in a real emergency cell towers will be down or overloaded.

    High heels are easy to take off. A plan is more important than a cell phone. If you can’t get home, because the highway was destroyed by an F5 does everyone in your family know where you will go?

    During storm season the Okie mantra is, “don’t be stupid”, meant in the nicest possible way, of course.

    Thinking through the options and communicating with your family in advance is smart. Be smart.

  21. I was in an earthquake once that didn’t cause a lot of damage but did cause the power to go out for many hours. One thing I learned is that it takes electricity to pump water to upper floors of buildings. So if you work or live on an upper floor, you might appreciate having extra bottled water to drink and use to flush the toilet.

  22. Anonymous :

    Just remember it doesn’t have to necessary be some terrorist attack or weather disaster. It also could be a black out, which New York City experiences every ten years or so.

    A few comments from someone who lives and works in New York City:

    1. My office has a phone tree in case of emergencies – it is a paper document people keep at home that has everyone’s personal phone numbers and email addresses that can be used in an emergency. They also give us emergency bags with things like a whistle, water, tissues, paper face mask, etc.

    2. Be smart and commute in comfortable flats, preferably sneakers. One of my coworkers told me that before 9/11, she used to commute in high heels to midtown. On 9/11, she had to walk for hours to get to her boyfriend’s apartment in one of the boroughs and she was wearing high heels. At one point she was able to stop and buy very cheap flats to wear instead but even those were painful. After that day, she never commuted in high heels again – she commutes in sneakers.

    3. If I am going to a meeting on another floor, I always take my handbag with me.

    4. I always make sure I have certain things in my handbag, which are good even if there isn’t a natural or man made disaster. In addition to the usual cell phone and wallet, I have pens, gum, sanitary products, band aids, over the counter pain medicine, tissues, safety pins, bobby pins, matches, moist towelettes, dental floss, a day planner with telephone numbers written down in the back (family, doctor, dentist), hand lotion, hand sanitizer, and a small notepad. If I am not going to be in the office that day or at all, then I will put some food in my bag, like crackers, an apple, etc. One of my coworkers who has a long commute always keeps a granola bar in her bag just in case her bus breaks down or something.

    Frankly, I know too many women who carry handbags with barely anything in it. Sure it means their bags are lighter but when they have a bleeding blister or a runny nose, they are always bugging me for supplies!

    5. I always keep some food in my desk and bring my lunch (and snacks) each day. Not only does this save me money and avoid trips to the vending machine, but if I am ever stuck at the office due to a disaster, then at least I won’t starve.

  23. I am on the go with my work computer a lot, so I just keep everything in my computer bag. It works for me.

    Other stuff to consider: if you have a chronic health condition, always have your meds with you, and everyone should consider first aid and fire extinguisher training. Emergencies aren’t always of the malicious act variety. The field I work in is hazardous so the emergency I am most likely to encounter is a workplace accident (specifically, a fire). First aid training, fire extinguisher training, and keeping my inhalers with me has enabled me to help others and myself in fires and other accidents.

    If you live somewhere cold (I live in Canada, so it’s relevant to me) keeping outerwear appropriate to the weather on hand is important. Last thing you want is to evacuate when it is well below freezing outside without a jacket. Trust me, hypothermia is nobody’s friend.

    And practical shoes are a must. If I can’t run in them, I don’t wear them at work because it is dangerous at my job to not be able to move well. Your mileage may vary on that one.

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