When the mean streets get meaner, due to rioting and unrest, it might make sense to stay where you are, rather than wading through a sea of troublemakers. And even if that safety zone is your workplace, you can still seek sanctuary there for a short period of time and provide for your most basic needs. Here’s what it would look like to hunker down in your office for 48 hours (without going on the offensive or leaving the building).
The first threat to address is the unpredictable violence that civil unrest can bring. An event can go from window breaking to fire setting in the blink of an eye, and you’ll always have more sinister individuals in the mass of unruly people with darker objectives in mind. Rally all of your coworkers, and especially any security personal, to have a quick discussion about who is staying in the building and who is going. Then, have a lengthier talk with those who are staying about your options for securing the building. If you’re sheltering in a large multi-story building, you’ll be hard pressed to block all of the windows and doors on the first level, but you may be able to disable the elevators and block the stairways between the first and second floors.
Plan several emergency exits from the second floor, in the event that the building is breached or a fire is started. This could be a fire escape, jumping into a dumpster, or using a fire hose for a rope. You can use filing cabinets and desks to block windows and single doors. Use extension cords or other cordage to tie together double doors. In the event that you have to shelter in a single story business, you’ll have to work hard to block all of the windows and doors, while allowing at least one emergency exit. You want to block people from coming into the building, yet allow egress if needed. Blocking all entrances and exits can turn your haven into a tomb.
In the event that this emergency occurs in colder weather and the power is cut, the entire building may be without heat. This isn’t so bad, when you know what to do. When the weather is cold but sunny, seek out a small office or room with large south-facing windows (in the northern hemisphere). As the sun shines in during the daytime, it will naturally warm up the room. And the more darker colored objects you bring into the room, the more heat you’ll be able to produce. Dark colored objects warm up in the sunlight better than light colored objects, and dense objects can hold heat for some time (like a thermal battery). Cover the windows at night to prevent heat loss through the thin glass, and you’ll be much warmer at night.
If none of this is an option, you’ll have to go with insulation to stay warm. Find a small space and start making a nest for 1-3 people. Extra body heat will help, but it’s not mandatory. Build up insulation on the floor, by stacking cardboard or Styrofoam as a warm “mattress.” Then, create a nest around it with bubble wrap, crumbled paper, or anything else that offers insulation value. It’s all about dead air space. When your body heats the air around it, and that air stays in place – you stay warm. When the air drifts away, you get cold. Emulate the humble squirrel, build a nest and stay warm through the winter.
You’ll want to know what’s going on out there as you shelter-in-place. If the phones still work, call whoever you can reach for updates – including your local law enforcement non-emergency line. If the power is still in place, use the work computers to check local media and even social media posts concerning the event.
If the phones and power are out, use a battery powered radio to scan for local news broadcasts. If the building has security, consider using any radios or walkie-talkies they have available (or have left behind after fleeing). The people sheltering in the building will be best protected by staying together, but if they do need to separate to search for supplies, go to the bathroom or shore up defenses – it’s best if they have a way to reach the others.
As discussed in another article in this edition, the workplace may have water cooler jugs and beverage vending machines you could raid for hydration. You may also be able to find food in desks and break rooms. But food and water aren’t the only supplies you’d need. Your survival may depend upon other assets that can be found in the modern office. For self-defense, you may be able to collect some weapons in the building. Fire axes and extinguishers can be used defensively.
For warmth, a large trash bag full of crumpled paper can be a suitable sleeping bag for a more petite person (or duct tape two trash bags together for the big-and-tall crowd). Depending on the nature of the business, there may be an abundance of useful items and supplies that you can “borrow,” or there may be very little. Do your best to be resourceful and creative with the things you find.
Hit The Crapper
If the water is still flowing, the office bathrooms can certainly be used as normal, but if the water is off, you’ll have to figure out a practical and safe way to deal with human waste. A few 5 gallon buckets can come to the rescue quite well. In the existing bathroom, you can set up a pee bucket and poop bucket. For the poop bucket, place shredded copy paper or newspaper in the bottom. Add a little more after each use and spray with a bleach cleaner or splash on a little liquid bleach (likely to be found in the janitor’s closet) for odor control. Both buckets should be sealed with a lid when not in use.
And as a particularly vile self-defense tool, you could do all of your business in one bucket with no odor control steps. Catapult this slurry from the rooftop, toward at any marauders who are attempting to break through your outer defenses (you wouldn’t really want to use it in the office).
Two days have come and gone as you sheltered in your building with a handful of co-workers. The violence still continues sporadically in the streets, despite regional LEOs pouring into the area and a National Guard presence in the city. You were able to reach your significant other before the power went out, but they are very vulnerable without you. What do you do? In the event that you decide to leave the building before the civil unrest event has ended, you may face many individuals and groups who are up to no good. You could attempt to disguise yourself as a dissident to make your way through the crowd, but what happens when you run into military or law enforcement personnel who are trying to clear the streets?
My advice would be to leave the building as a group when you see peacekeepers outside and seek an escort out of the area from those trying to restore order. It will help immensely if you are dressed in business attire (you don’t want to be dressed like a rioter and run up to approaching LEOs).
And if there isn’t a peacekeeping force and you decide to leave the building alone, build your best homeless costume from available resources. Dirty your face and mess up your hair. Find a way to smell bad. Wear some oversized or mismatched clothing from the office lost-and-found. Carry some food, water and makeshift (or legitimate) weapons in a trash bag slung over your shoulder. The homeless are often harassed by thugs in good times and bad times, but you may also be completely ignored as you make your way home (the greyman principal). Good luck!