US capitol protests, what can we learn?

Sure was a crazy day yesterday (1/7/21) if you saw the news, where protesters charged the US Capitol building to delay a vote. 

Let’s not talk about the politics about it. But instead do a little thought experiment. 

When the protesters were breaching the building and the employees had to evacuate. 


Accord to this tweet, it looks like they had little go kits that they could grab. 

If your place of business entered the media for some negative reason, and you had dangerous protesters trying to get into your building, what would you do? Do you know multiple escape routes? Can you just pick up and go in a moment’s notice? What if they break into your building before you can have a warning and now you are confronted by them?

Just some things we can think about and learn from this experience. 

Feel free to answer any of the above questions, and add in any other things you may have learned from seeing this yesterday. 

Again, no talking politics…


  • Comments (20)

    • 11

      With Covid 98% of our workforce is at home, however in “normal” times what we have in place is the receptionist can hit a button which activates lights by the stairwells and at elevators, warning us to stay in place. This is a scenario where we have a disgruntled customer and it takes badge access to go anywhere other than reception so they probably will not get far. Nothing I cold do other than stay in place in that scenario. 

      I can say as a learned lesson is that when the fire alarm sounds, go against the policy of not grabbing anything and actually grab your keys/purse/wallet (nothing else). It happened once that the alarm went off and I thought it was a drill, and I was one of those volunteers that make sure everyone is out of my sections. Therefore when it went off my first concern was to follow procedure to evacuate everyone, we all exited, and once outside we learned it was a real small fire. We waited, and waited and waited for the all clear. If I had my keys I could have gone home but instead I was sitting in a parking lot for hours. Some may disagree with me though. I remember a story years ago about a terrorist threat at an airport and people ran off without their keys and purses and had a hard time leaving the airport. I don’t want to be stuck like that.

      Regarding events last night, I was listening on the radio to a journalist that was inside the capital building before the breach. She knew about the protests and had this gut feeling to move, with no real indication of something happening. She went to the windows and saw people walking up the steps, so she left right away and was able to get back to her office. I always trust my gut, that is something worth keeping in mind.

      • 9

        I work in a laboratory building so we have fire evacuations several times a year and must admit that even as a fire warden I also go against policy and grab my keys and wallet before clearing the building. As mentioned below by someone, keeping keys, wallet and a jacket handy is a sort of ‘situational preparedness’ and I can generally grab them within seconds, certainly during that ten seconds when everyone hears the alarm and pauses to decide if it is the real deal.

      • 6

        Thank you for your feedback!

      • 4

        All of my female coworkers at my previous job would bring their purses with them and leave them under their desks for the duration of their shift. If they were in another area of the building and had to evacuate, then they probably couldn’t get back to their items in time. From a security standpoint, this really bothered me. Girls would just leave their purses with their phone, ID’s, money, and keys under their desk when they went to the bathroom, into a meeting, or to another area of the building. It would have been incredibly easy for someone to take their whole purse or just an item or two out of there. If you are a female who works in an office and currently does this, please look into getting some sort of locking desk drawer or just carry your purse with you when you are out of sight from your desk.

        I carry my keys, wallet, and phone in my pockets, so I always have those items on me at all times. During a fire drill, it was nice to be able to just exit the building and go sit in my car. 

      • 8

        Always trust your gut! That is your primal survival instinct that has been developed over generations, and is quite smart at time. 

        We don’t have to use our gut with many things in life anymore (compared to our caveman ancestors), but could be something to look into how to develop as a prepping tool…

      • 7

        I work on a larger facility with multiple buildings.  Pre-covid, I was local, but have been working from home for 10 months.   Locally, I was/am? a floor warden and support accounting for the evacuated (building or full area earthquake with assembly areas in parking lots), basic first aid and communication.  I learned about not having a way home after a full earthquake drill.  Even if an earthquake is not damaging to the buildings, no one is permitted back in until they are inspected.  And it’s a large facility so it will take hours.  One scenario is to then announce that all non-essential personnel should go home.  If you don’t have keys to your vehicle you are stuck or asking for rides from those who do.  For an earthquake, our instructions now include gathering your basic belongings (coats, keys, etc).    What I learned in that drill was that I may not be in the building with my office/keys at the time of the event.  I have had to devise a solution keep a key in my car.  Simpler with my last vehicle as it had a keypad to get in.  This has also made me re-think where I park.  Premium parking is next to the buildings but that is also the zone of no approach after a sizable quake.  Worse case, something from a building has fallen on the car.  So i now have a Evac Kit in my office and a GHB in my car that is parked far from buildings with the ability to start/drive it in the car or in a pocket as EDC.  It helps that it is a secure facility and I can park inside the guarded perimeter.  

        One thing that has changed in the last few years is the communication via slack channels (which also aren’t hosted locally) because it’s a large number of people.  When I was evacuated due to fire, the work slack channels were a better source than most of the news and other social media.  An example is that my boss called to ask if I needed help because I was being evacuated.  I had not been alerted officially and wasn’t aware yet (I was at home packing).  This likely won’t work during an earthquake (cell towers will be overwhelmed) but certainly during unrest, this would be helpful to know where incidents are happening to help from either work or home.  This in addition to the traffic maps to indicate issues – a clever idea!  

      • 9

        That is a great idea to get a car with a keypad to prevent being locked out.

        It’s also smart of you to be aware of your surroundings and not park under a covered parking lot or next to something big that could come down on your car in an earthquake.

        Where I live earthquakes are not that big of a threat. We had uncovered and covered parking at my old job. I always took the covered parking. So nice to just go out and not have to dig your car out of a foot of snow. And it’s funny how people would still park in the uncovered section during the hail season. Every time they looked out their window and saw it hailing, there was two-three people who would run out in a panic and pull into the covered area.

      • 4

        Thanks Robert.  The previous car with a keypad was by chance.  

    • 12

      Along the lines of Lessons Learned, the cliff notes version:

      1. Don’t count on knowing about a situation early just because you’re near by.  I live 6 miles from the Capitol but first learned to check the news from a friend on the west coast who has family in the city.  Proximity to an event doesn’t ensure knowledge of an event as it occurs.
      2. Have even a straw-man plan but be ready to update it on the fly.  Events in DC are typically outside my immediate ‘area of interest’ but even just keeping an eye on traffic in google maps gave me reasonable assurances of where things were and if anything was spreading/moving in a large scale fashion.  My ‘civil unrest’ plan was quickly/mentally updated to ‘if traffic starts getting irregularly bad within X miles’ start going to Plan B.
      3. Planing for second order impacts is hard.  Several local jurisdictions just outside of DC  implemented a late notice curfew orders, delivered via cell phone emergency alerts, with less than an hour to curfew.  “better safe than sorry” can also just apply to avoiding inconvenience and risk.  To wit: a local bar/restaurant preemptively closed around 4pm, not a bad move for their staff in hindsight (local curfew went into effect at 6pm, was announced probably close to 5/5:30?).
      4. Scale your response to the threat.  The largest personal “prep event” was a 5 minute discussion with the household of “ok, everything will probably be fine but if Event X happens we’ll respond with Action Y” but truth be told even the first/mildest triggering event never occurred so I didn’t even bother to put on my shoes to leave the house in a hurry (maybe not the smartest idea in an absolute sense, but a scaled reaction based on a reasonable assessment of exposure/risk).  Your plan technically can be “based on my comfort/risk tolerance, no action is needed.”

      To the original question about being caught at the work place, in the before-times when mandatory telework wasn’t a thing I did have an office-specific bag (safe for work) with a get home bag in the trunk of my car.  Alas, open office plans don’t lend themselves well to shelter in place :-/ 

      Random trivia: always take your coat with you at the office during harsh weather!  once in the winter I was caught in the gym during a fire drill.  t shirt and gym shorts in 30 degree weather is not. fun.

      • 11

        Thank you for sharing your experience in DC and glad it hasn’t impacted you much. In other forums people are getting scared about their safety and they aren’t even on the east coast! We all need perspective on how big and where the treat is. Sounds like you have a great plan in place and I think monitoring google maps is a great idea.

        Also interesting how the fire alarm affected both of us, proving in my mind, that yes you need to grab essentials when the fire alarm goes off. I understand every second counts but it you can take 5 seconds to grab then do it. Maybe its a good idea as a prep to always know where those essentials are and have them handy. Not always possible but good to do when you can.

        I also had a small bug out bag at the office, even a route planned on how to walk home in an extreme case but it didn’t take too long to plan out. However my cubicle has been cleaned out and I may never even go back to it as we now have the permanent option to be full time remote worker.

    • 9

      It would be very interesting to know what’s in the Go Kits.

      • 8

        Agree. I have some comparable work experience and we definitely didn’t have anything like that.

      • 7

        I am curious what are in them as well. I’m guessing they are so people can bunker down inside for a period of time. So water, granola bars/some other food source, flash light, fleece blanket, and probably the best of all glowsticks!

      • 8

        And don’t forget glow sticks.  They obviously have glow sticks.

      • 9

        I’m so glad that the glow sticks have reappeared in another thread. I got a genuine laugh out of that.

      • 11

        I just want to know when The Prepared will be publishing their ‘best glow stick’ review.  Gideon???

      • 9


        We are actually in the process of doing so now!… Just kidding. 

        I’ll talk to the team and see if it is something they’d like to touch on here soon. Great idea!

    • 9

      A related question is, did seeing the news in the Capitol cause you to set any previous plans into motion or increase your preparations?

      In our case, Wednesday happened to be the day my wife was making a trip to the local wholesale club. While she was on the way to the store, the attack happened. I informed her by text, told here to get anything extra she felt would be good to stock up on.

      A typical wholesale club trip is $200-$250.  She came home with $650 in purchases.  All of it stuff we normally buy, just extra.

    • 9

      I used to work as a civilian in a police department. When working  the night shift, there weren’t many if any police officers around. While the doors did require a code to enter (when they were actually working), we still didn’t feel too comfortable being left there during the night with some of the stuff we saw.

      One example is this crazy looking woman, crying her eyes out, with frazzled hair, and torn clothes just showed up at my desk in the middle of the night. I didn’t know how she got in, as I didn’t let her in. I asked if she needed anything and she said that she was a victim of a domestic violence case that happened that night and was down in the interrogation room being questioned by officers. I guess they just left her in there for hours and forgot about her, so she left that room and was wandering the halls of the police department looking for someone. I felt bad for her, but also concerned for my safety as they could have been interrogating a murderer and giving that kind of person the ability to wander around at night was scary.

      We had protesters come into the police department who had a YouTube channel of themselves going into different police departments acting belligerent and unruly, looking for any reason to be offended or have their rights violated. They then would sue the department and get their payout. 

      They gave us a panic button that would go straight to the local dispatch, but when we had accidentally pushed it or pushed it during practice, their response time was incredibly slow if it even came at all. 

      So all these things, on top of some other issues made the employees not feel safe working there. We brought it up to our supervisors and they didn’t do anything about it.

      I kind of made my own mental evacuation route and thought about what I would do if someone was threatening my safety while working there. We could carry pepper spray, but not a gun (as civilians). So even though I worked for a police department, I didn’t really feel that safe working there…

    • 8

      To be blunt, never underestimate the power of very stupid people in large groups.

      Once mob mentality takes over, everything decends to the lowest common denominator.