Terrorism in the Workplace

I felt the need to write this post after finding the following grab-bag underneath a desk (in fact, every desk) when I was freelancing as a Studio Director in April 2011:

Bloomberg Emergency Kit

Initially when I first discovered the bags I said “what a brilliant idea”, and thought nothing more of it. But driving home after my shift I started thinking about exactly why they are there. Clearly, meetings have been had to implement the costly logistics of such items, and more importantly, their necessity. It’s actually quite a big thing. Let’s break down what we have here:

A bright orange reflective bag, a glow stick, a dust mask, bandages, two satchels of water, and a reflective heat blanket.

Just for a moment, try and envisage a scene that would require such items… We’re talking about a situation where we need to find this bag in low light, requiring the glow stick to aid visibility or the need to be seen by others, using the bandage to stop bleeding on either yourself or others, using the dust mask to reduce breathing in particles from the air which may be harmful, using the emergency heat blanket to keep you or someone else warm, and having enough water to last three days… these are all things that become useful and necessary in an emergency situation.

They are items regularly found in kits designed for earthquake victims. Bear in mind these are under desks in offices in Central London.

This, if ever, was the first time I’ve felt directly affected by the now overly-used term “terrorism”. Terrorism is fear, and defined as the use of violence and/or threats to intimidate or coerce. Somewhere along the lines (likely post 9/11) someone Senior in this company has identified the building  we work in as a more-than-likely target. Budgets have been set to pay for these items and their upkeep (the Datrex emergency water packs have a shelf life of 5 years, for example). Steps are in place for new staff members to be introduced to these measures and the reason for their requirements.

And it’s not just these individual grab-bags that are in these offices. I’ve also spotted large blue rucksacks with the Star of Life logo on them, a worldwide identifying emblem for emergency medical services. I really must ask how much training their first-aider staff go through!

It’s a huge logistical step to implement these safety and security measures within such a massive corporation, and certainly puts a spin on the need for the emergency exits to be pointed out (something a lot of people are ignorant towards anyway, ultimately to their own demise. Do you know your routes out of your workplace?).

I hope these items never have to be used and I highly praise the person/people who came up with the idea (preferably not a company, making money out of fear).

I was even more impressed to discover whilst Directing two shows over in Hong Kong (via London!) that they have similar grab-bags under their desks too. Though I appreciate that studios inside the sky scraping Cheung Kong Centre building in central Hong Kong is more susceptible to an earthquake than London.

Surely every place of work should have such measures? If not for use within the confines of their own office, but perhaps to include the every day person on the street caught up in a tragic event? An example here would be the people involved in the bombings of London on 7/7. A better example would be those who became victims of the 7/7 Tavistock Square bus bomb, which ironically exploded near the British Medical Association and was hosting an event for medical staff and doctors. The point in case being that when medical attention is close at hand, lives can be saved.

The simple act of being given one of these emergency kits makes a significant statement; where you work is of high importance, and so are you.

On the other hand some people will say it’s just a bag.

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