UK Government Advice on Preparing for Emergencies

26 Jul 2004

To view the Government's Advice on Preparing for Emergencies please visit

 By Dr. Sandra Bell, Director of the RUSI Homeland Security & Reslience Department

 The government’s terror advice comes as a sobering thought to those of us who live ‘just-in-time’ lives. The daily activities of a typical family are complex and require split second timing and it is not uncommon that every member of a household are in different towns for large parts of the day. The slight delay of a train or a traffic jam can have severe knock-on effects resulting in panic phone calls to partners, schools and childminders. Just imagine what would happen if you couldn't make those calls because the phone networks had been commandeered to deal with a large scale emergency, or that you had been quarantined awaiting decontamination and was unable to contact anyone.

Since the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and the events that have now become known as the ‘three Fs’ Flood, Fuel and Foot and Mouth much has been done in the UK to educate and prepare for either natural or man-made disasters. Businesses have developed resilience plans, regions have developed emergency response plans and a number of mock disaster exercises have been carried out across the country involving emergency services, local and regional government and the media. However, up until now, there has been limited guidance and information aimed specifically at the individual.

It is always very difficult to give guidance and information to individuals about what to do in case of a terror attack or emergency - pitch it or time it wrongly and you could end up with either mass panic or mass apathy. However, as this advice comes in the wake of the Butler Report and the findings of the 9/11 Commission, rarely have UK individuals been more aware that we cannot be 100% certain that the UK will not be the target of a terrorist attack. These reports have also shown us that successful prevention of, response to and recovery from disasters depends on every member of a system working together - and we, as individuals, are very important members of this system.

The government has implemented changes to make sure it can respond better in the case of emergencies, the intelligence community have implemented changes to make sure that it is more able to deal with today's threats, businesses have changed to make them safer places for us to work and emergency services up and down the country have been rehearsing in case of disaster. The information and guidance given is matter of fact and common sense, but it will attempt to make sure that we, as individuals, are not the weakest link that causes the whole system to fail.

 This article may not be reproduced in part or in full without the prior consent of the Royal United Services Institute.

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