Government asks Britons to stockpile as part of emergency planning

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Britons will be urged to stock up on canned food, batteries and bottled water under a new campaign launched by the UK government to encourage the public to prepare for emergencies.

Oliver Dowden, deputy prime minister, will on Wednesday unveil a new website designed to help households mitigate potential damage caused by a range of risks, ranging from floods and power cuts to biosecurity crises like another pandemic. .

However, retailers on Wednesday warned the public not to buy items in bulk following the advice.

“While it is sensible to have some extra food at home, most households will find they already have enough non-perishables in the cupboard,” said Andrew Opie of the British Retail Consortium, which represents supermarkets and other retailers.

Dowden will insist the measures are “about sensible safeguards, not stockpiling”, and describe the website as offering “practical information for households to make those preparations” for the threats set out in the government’s national risk register.

The “Prepare” website launched Wednesday urges households to stock up on bottled water. It suggests a minimum supply of around three liters of drinking water per person per day, but recommends 10 liters per person per day – to meet basic cooking and hygiene needs – as a more comfortable level of supply.

It also urges people to buy and store non-perishable foods that “do not need cooking, such as ready-to-eat canned meat, fruits or vegetables,” as well as a can opener, plus baby items and pet food, when necessary. .

Battery-powered or wind-up flashlights and radios, a first aid kit and wet wipes are among other emergency supplies detailed on the government checklist.

Speaking at the London Defense Conference, Dowden will say that “resilience starts at home” and will cite surveys at the conference showing that only 15 percent of people have an emergency supply kit in their homes. while more than 40 percent of people do not have it. supplies of water and non-perishable food for three days.

Government officials said the advice would align Britain with nations such as Finland and Japan, which are seen as leaders in citizen resilience.

However, retailers are keen to avoid a repeat of what happened in the early days of the pandemic, when shoppers flocked to UK supermarkets to stockpile essential items from toilet paper to canned meat, pasta and rice. , leaving shelves empty as supermarket chains rushed to replenish products.

This was because supermarkets operate a very tight “just in time” supply chain model in which fresh food cannot be stored for more than a few days and there is not enough warehouse or space to store large quantities of products. non-perishable.

The increase in demand led supermarket chains to ration items and manufacturers and distributors to find ways to increase supply.

In a wide-ranging speech on strengthening national resilience, Dowden will announce plans for new training for ministers and MPs in crisis management.

It will also reveal plans next year for the UK’s largest ever pandemic simulation, involving tens of thousands of people from across government and public services.