Cannibals at the Office

This is the first submission for the new writing contest. This kind of a situation is why I always try and keep a  get home bag around. I don’t want to have to depend on what I can scavenge.


It’s 10am, and you’re just starting to settle in at the office and start in on the day’s work.  You are focused; your keyboard and your mouse are like an extension of you and you are ready to really hammer out some quality handiwork.

Then someone in the hall shouts, “Hey, you guys better get in here!”  You blink, refocus your eyes away from the screen, and get up from your chair, crinking your stiff neck as you go see what the commotion is all about, and why it’s taking you away from your work when you just got focused.

The TV is on, and the pale, scared newscaster is telling you that you need to stay in your homes and offices; it’s not safe to be outdoors; they’re still waiting to hear from the officials on what to do, but you really shouldn’t go out there.  It might be 1-3 days before it is safe.

Holy crap. It’s about now that you either feel really pleased with yourself for finally building that Get Home Bag (GHB or BOB) and stuffing it the bottom drawer of your file cabinet or the trunk of your car, or you really want to kick yourself in the butt for not finding the time before.  If you have one already, wonderful. But what about your co-workers? Or what if you can’t get to it; what if it’s in some parking lot too far away from your building to get to?  What if you don’t have one at all? What do you do?

Do you have kids in school that you need to go to? A spouse at home? Relatives that need you, especially in this emergency? How are you going to get to them? What if you can’t drive there? Maybe the roads are blocked or impassable, or maybe they’ve simply shut down all traffic. Can you wait awhile, or do you need to leave now?

You have a few decisions to make.  If you can stay where you are for a while longer, or if you have to, you need to take stock of your resources. And for the sake of your coworkers, you need to help them gather resources as well. Think of the Japanese tsunami – leaving via the ground floor wasn’t really an option. Neither was accessing your vehicle. And sometimes, you can’t even access the rest of the building. Here’s a brief and poignant video to that effect:

Look around. There are some things every office building has in common, and some of those are listed below. Think outside the box – there’s more than this list – what do you see around you? What you can improvise or cannibalize?

  • Water – Have an office cooler? A vending machine? A fridge on the premises? Ice? Take a look around. If you have access to a master key, look in each individual office or cubicle too – a lot of folks have a personal stash close to their desk. Sometimes folks keep a case of water in the bottom drawer of a file cabinet, or snacks in their desk drawers.  If the water is still working, it may not be a bad idea to start filling containers (like trash cans and vases) if you may need it. If you or others are planning to leave the premises, save the pre-bottled water for their use.
  • Food – Much the same as water, are there vending machines, an office fridge or even a kitchen on site? Take stock of what’s available, and if it’s going to be long-term, get organized and put someone in charge of food collection, storage and disbursement. If it’s a short-term thing where you just need to get through a night at the office, the word rationing might not ever come up. But if it’s bigger, or might get bigger, think ahead.
  • Heat – You usually can’t go around starting fires in office buildings. But how do you keep warm if the heat goes off? Look around – are there rugs on the floor that could be rolled into sleeping bags? Are there quilts on the walls? Scarves? Jackets and hats behind peoples’ doors? A lost and found box you can raid for mittens? Most offices have some sort of fabric around. And an awful lot of paper products if indeed you could start a fire.  Think even further outside the box – you can use trash bags as ponchos to keep warm if needed, especially if you need to leave the building.  If it’s truly cold, try to gather folks into one room away from windows, and pack ‘em to a small space like sardines. The less space you have to heat, the better. Draping trash bags down from a desk can make a miniature tent inside for 1-2 very cozy people.
  • Shelter – Right along with heat, shelter implies warmth and security. Are you inside or outside? Look around and make a tent out of an area rug if you need to.
  • Weapons – Most offices frown upon weaponry. But it never hurts to ask – does anyone have a concealed carry permit? A pocketknife? Are there steak knives in the office kitchen? Letter openers? An axe for fire (there’s a rare find these days!), or a fire extinguisher? In a pinch, aerosol cans for personal care, computer cleaning or bathroom scents can be used as offensive weapons.  Or if you need to get really inventive, think toner powder as an offensive (and most unpleasant) weapon.  If you have a tool box on site (try the breakroom), you can disassemble things like stair rails to make fighting sticks, walking staffs and tent poles.
  • Tools – Aside from a toolbox, which you may or may not be fortunate enough to have, most department secretaries have been asked often enough for tools that they keep a spare set in their office, along with duct tape, packing tape and other useful objects. Need cord? Look at how many wires and extension cords are around.
See also  How do You Carry Your Prepping Information in a Bug Out?

If you need to leave, find a bag to put some gear in. With any luck, someone has a backpack or laptop case on site. And a bicycle. But if you need to make your own, consider stripping the covers off a chair, or improvising one out of clothing.  Think of MacGyver – he had a knack for looking around and seeing objects for more than their intended purpose. You can too.

Use this as another kick-in-the-butt to put that get-home bag together and take it to the office. But if you don’t have one, you can make one out of the things around you. Look around your workplace with new eyes, and maybe you’ll start seeing things with new eyes. Is there someone in your office that always has candy out for you to nibble? It might be smart to know where they store it. Is there a master key? Do you know where it is? Can you find out? Volunteer for opening or closing if that puts you in a position to locate more resources. If you or your coworkers get stuck for the night, or for a week, what are you going to do? You might be the most prepared person on-site, and that’s brings responsibility to yourself and to others. Improvising might save their lives, and yours. And get you home.

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6 thoughts on “Cannibals at the Office”

  1. Matt in Oklahoma

    Dont work in an office per say but those drop down ceiling tiles can be used to form a shelter that will hold in your body heat better when sleeping by reducing the area where body heat escapes too.
    Don’t overlook prison style shives/shanks for protection “against all enemies foreign and domestic” (AKA Your office or from the streets). Very quickly I will probably distance and even barricade myself from others if needed depending on what the event is or join with a limited chosen few. Those chosen few should be decided now.
    I keep supplies on hand at work and carry more food than needed in my lunch box on a daily basis as well as seasonal clothing.
    I can’t imagine anyone reading this not having a bag at least until a short time ago when I went to a group meeting where I was the guest teacher that night and I told everyone to go get their bag and come back in. 6 out of 24 did so and 3 of the bags were real, one was a purse with little in it, one had to pack his bag first and one was almost empty but a brand name and “looked cool” because it was “tactical”.
    Like the man said, if you aint got one, get one, today, not later but right now. Load it, learn it and know it.

    Knowledge is Power, Practiced Knowledge is Strength, Tested Knowledge is Confidence

    1. Good idea on the ceiling tiles Matt! I agree on choosing a few specific folks to “buddy” with. There’s one fellow in my office that is clearly a prepper too. It’s the rest I worry about (not in a self-defense sort of way, in a “they’ll surely perish without help” sort of way).

      I too hope that everyone reading my guest article uses this opportunity to put a get home bag together.

      And I just wanted to say that those odds out of 24 folks attending a prepper-type meeting.. ouch. Hopefully you were able to get them motivated to build a proper pack.

      Specifically because I work in an office environment, I made a point of making my office-bag fit in – it’s inside of a Dell laptop backpack; the exact same sort of bag everyone else in the building or on the site has with them every day. The bag in the car is in your average every-day backpack. As much as I’d love to use a cool “tactical” bag, like my sexy sleek molly style pack, it wouldn’t fit in anywhere I go, except on a visit to a gun show. That one is reserved for after the SHTF, which we all hope doesn’t happen. But that probably will.

      Thanks for your thoughts,

      ~ Sandy Taylor

      1. Matt in Oklahoma

        You might think worse of me but after a few more things that happened with them that showed their unprepardness and hater political attitudes I left. They had been together for 10yrs and had done little, refused to train and only wanted to buy high end ticket items to show off.
        The Dell pack idea is awesome. Slip you an armor panel in there and increase your odds too.

    1. Heya Jo,

      An armor shield is something like this:

      Or this:

      Basically a backpack or other nondescript “office appropriate” way to have a bullet-proof vest with you (whether or not they are bullet-proof is a whole other discussion). Or just a panel that you add to a regular backpack, like my Dell backpack, so it continues to fit in perfectly. 🙂

      ~ Sandy Taylor

      1. Matt in Oklahoma

        With the panel in place in the pack you can wear the pack backwards to protect your front or wear it normally say if you are in a defensive position or running away from a threat. The panels are light and since it is in your pack rather than under your clothes you dont have to modify they way you dress in your office attire.

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