Get prepared for emergencies

Preparing for Emergencies Hidden in the news about the forthcoming election, Post Office inquiry and tragic death after the recent torrential rain, the government announced a new website advising how to ‘get prepared for emergencies’.  Given that I still have the oh-so-useful (?) Preparing for Emergencies leaflet that was sent to each household back in 2004, I decided that it was worth having a quick peek to see if anything had changed much.

Emergency Kit List

Bottled waterThe recommendation for a home emergency kit still stands, with the details little changed.  It seems that the useful phone numbers no longer belong in the emergency kit, but those can be put into the plan template that is provided.  Bottled water has been given more clarity, with a minimum or 2-3l per person per day, but a recommended 10l/person/day. 10 litres!!!  Per day!!!  So for our family of 4, that is 120 litres of water.  Where am I supposed to keep these?  The picture shows a pack of 9l (note that other brands are available; this was just the pack that I could see in the local store, and a mere snip at £4.50).  So I am supposed to keep at least 12 of these packs somewhere in the house.  And the use by date is April 2026.  Now, having left London, I can assure you that the tap water elsewhere is drinkable, and the tap-water where we live is delicious, and actually just as good, if not better, than bottled water.  However, it now appears that, as well as finding somewhere to store around 100 large bottles, I also have to find a way to ensure that they are being drunk and replenished to make sure that they are still useable.

A battery radio has now been expanded to include a wind-up radio.  This does not address the fact that there is still discussion of switching off the FM radio network.  DAB, I understand, is gradually being replaced by DAB+, leaving those original DAB radios unable to pick up the DAB+ systems…all completely irrelevant for those of us outside the metropolis who do not have a hope of picking up a DAB signal; I cannot get the signal in home or office.  The new list does suggest a portable power bank for charging mobile phones  (which is how I listen to radio), so at least it is moving with the times a little.

The need for spare clothes and blankets has been removed from the list.  Personally, I quite like a daily change of underwear, and will always pack this in hand baggage whilst flying, so suspect it would stay in my list if I ever were to pack an emergency kit.

Emergency Lighting
Cambridge Risk Solutions Emergency Lighting

I suppose my main query with this list is what it is supposed to achieve?  The suggestion is that I keep such a kit at home and I suppose that I do have elements of the kit; , we already have a torch where we can grab it when we get power cuts.  If we can’t find our way to it, there is the torch on our phones.  We are also blessed in that I have a husband who owns a gas lamp or 2, and a paraffin lamp, and is thrilled when we have a power cut so has the camping stove and kettle going before we have even lit all the lamps (I have one or two illuminated gin bottles which are also battery powered and take a while to get to all).  He is then devastated when the power returns before the kettle is even hot!

Needless to say, I will not be keeping all these items together as a ‘kit’.  On the whole, we know where all the relevant items are in our house and I have absolutely no intention of stockpiling bottled water.  The tin opener is in the drawer, and we always have the ‘spares cupboard’ (admittedly lots of homemade jam and chutney at the moment, but also considerable stocks of baked beans for the boys) and a freezer full of food (which will need to be eaten anyway in the event of prolonged power cuts).

Get Prepared for Emergencies

So, looking at other areas of the website highlights a few other aspects.  Interestingly, a few nuggets about how to cycle in poor weather (bright and light clothing and with lights when it’s dark), carrying water when you are on public transport, and advising someone as to your destination and estimated time of arrival when travelling in poor weather.  Not totally sure where these link into getting prepared for emergencies as opposed to just being sensible things to do normally, but I suppose that they had a web-page to fill.  Laughably, there is no information about air travel and considerations about what should go in hand-baggage as part of preparing for emergencies (such as the 12 hours we had sleeping on the floor at Larnaca airport and for other such more newsworthy airport delays).

Alerts and Warnings

The website gives details of the UK Emergency Alerts system. My phone was one of those that did not receive the emergency text (can’t remember the details, but think I was somewhere else or my phone was off, but I did not get it).   Interestingly, despite guidance regarding the need for exercising and testing programmes, the test of this system has not been repeated since the first test on 23rd April 2023.

I am not sure if the text system is used instead of or in addition to, for example, COMAH site alert sirens or those areas with flood sirens, such as those in Calder Valley, but these sirens and notification systems are not mentioned in the Get Prepared for Emergencies website.  This is a surprising omission.  As long ago as my EPO days, we were concerned about what the alarms would mean to those not from the area.  As an example, if the local residents were used to an alarm sounding that meant a Chlorine leak, and that they should therefore go inside and shut windows and doors, what would the siren mean to people walking or cycling through the area, and how would they know what action to take.  Equally, to tourists in Hebden Bridge or Todmorden, would they know what actions to take on hearing the siren?  These alerting systems are not mentioned, and suggested actions not clarified.

Be informed about hazards

A further section gives a long list of potential hazards, such as extreme weather, droughts, overseas emergencies and others.  Some are more immediate than others.  Interestingly, some  (such as flooding) suggest packing a ‘grab bag’, with different elements to the emergency kit, which also needs bottled water, but this time includes important documents.  Do I need a grab bag as well as an emergency kit?


The reader may suspect, from this short article, that I have approached the Prepare website with a degree of cynicism and scepticism and perhaps, given the money wasted on the ‘Preparing for Emergencies’ campaign, there may be a degree of truth in that.  However, whilst I do believe that there are some glaring gaps in the content of the website, it is probable that the website has tried to do too much for too many, and therefore watered-down the potential impact.  Moreover, from my work in both business continuity and in emergency planning, I know that such initiatives will not work without regular awareness activities and updates, much as a business continuity plan will not work without an awareness programme and regular training and exercises.  Without on-going commitment,  the Prepare campaign might just as well prepare to join the Preparing to Emergencies leaflet in my bottom drawer.

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