British Government Warns Citizens to Stock up on Nonperishables and Water

By: Alec Donaldson | Published: Jun 02, 2024

Deputy Prime Minister, Oliver Dowden, has advised British citizens that every household should have their own ‘emergency kit’ in preparation for a national crisis. 

Dowden announced on May 22nd, 2024, that every household should be holding and creating a supply box to become self-sufficient in case of flood, power outages, cyber-attacks, or wars. This advice has been paired with a ‘Prepare’ page on the government website, guiding citizens on what to do during a crisis.  

Who is Oliver Dowden?

Dowden is the Deputy Prime Minister under Rishi Sunak. Born in Hertfordshire, he became a member of the Conservative Party.

25/10/2022. London, United Kingdom. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak meets Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Oliver Dowden.

Source: UK Government/Wikimedia Commons

He is also Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Secretary of State in the Cabinet Office and has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for Hertsmere since 2015. He’s been an important part of the British government for many years.

Panic Buying During the Pandemic

During the Covid Pandemic, there was panic buying all around the world. This not only affected the shoppers and citizens of the UK but also the retailers themselves

Shoppers in London panic buying canned food and toilet paper during the COVID-19 pandemic

Source: Nickolay Romensky/Wikipedia

Dowden believes that Brits need to be better prepared in case a similar situation happens again. Not only should households be keeping non-perishables in stock, but also items such as battery-powered torches and battery-powered radios, and spare batteries for them. 

Essential Emergency Kit Items

According to the Prepare government website, there are 10 items that every household should have in case of any sort of emergency. 

Plastic first aid box

Source: Beendy234/Wikimedia Commons

The Gov website states that battery/wind-up torch, portable power bank, battery/wind-up radio, spare batteries, first aid kit, hand sanitiser and wet wipes, baby supplies, food, and bottled water, are the most important things to keep in a house in case of an emergency. Certain items, such as bottled water, would be needed to be checked and changed occasionally to stay within the use-by date.

What Should Be in a First Aid Kit?

Despite being told we should all have first aid kits for a local crisis, we should all have them in the house and even small ones in our cars.

Small red typical first aid kit bag

Source: ProjectManhattan/Wikimedia Commons

Numerous items should be in and replaced frequently in your first aid kit, such as sterile dressings with eye dressings and waterproof plasters. Bandages, protective wear such as gloves and face masks. Cleansing wipes, gauze, tape, scissors (to cut the other items), pins and clips, and a foil blanket in case of a situation where you need to retain body heat.

Do Other Countries Prep for Crises?

Prepping for a crisis, local or worldwide, isn’t a new craze. Other countries already have been telling their citizens to prepare for anything.

Bird Island, FL, August 21, 2008 -- Houses on Sea Gate Circle in the North Brevard County community are locked in by the flooding from Tropical Storm Fay. State and Federal teams have started assessing the extent of damage caused by the slow storm throughout the Central Coastal and North Central regions of Florida.

Source: Barry Bahler/FEMA/Wikipedia

The Finnish government has given guidance regarding emergency prepping due to the fact that the country borders Russia. Japan are also preppers, as they often have freak weather activity such as earthquakes, tsunamis, and floods.


What Kind of Crisis Is Dowden Expecting?

Although Oliver Dowden hasn’t exclusively said a crisis is incoming to Britain, he hints at what has happened, and can happen again, saying it is ‘common sense’ to be prepared. 

River Severn in flood - Worcester, road unable to use and swans swimming where cars should be.

Source: Chris Allen/Wikimedia Commons

In the speech giving the advice, Dowden discusses the Covid pandemic, suggesting if households were more prepared it could have been easier to deal with. He also mentions floods and ‘If there was a national power outage’ households should have supplies to stay safe if they are left in the dark literally. 


Alerts and Warnings

In the UK citizens have the option to sign up to get alerts and warnings for flood and power cuts in their local areas. 

Flood warning sign on a country rain and small flood.

Source: JThomas/Wikimedia Commons

The UK phone Emergency Alert System only was introduced in April 2023. In 2013, they tried cell alerts but had not since developed the system until Covid-19 when they sent text messages to warn UK citizens of new rulings to stay safe during the pandemic. 


Doomsday Prepping Problems

Doomsday prepping can cause a host of problems if not done safely or can cause large amounts of waste for the person participating. When people do not know how to properly prepare for a crisis, things can go wrong.

Basement family fallout shelter, in black and white with bunk beds and non-perishable food c. 1957.

Source: Wikipedia

Buying the wrong food items can cause them to go off. In a 5-gallon water jug, typically, the water will last for 2 years. This means that before the end of the 2 years, you need to replace the water bottles in case of an emergency. Prepping means checking the stock you still have, not just buying everything all at once.


Davon Contaminated Water

Davon, one of the largest counties in England, has recently been dealing with a water crisis, leaving residents sick and unable to use their water. A waterborne parasite, cryptosporidiosis, has been found in the water in the county, causing people to become sick with severe diarrhea and vomiting.

Part of the seafront at Torquay. This 2006 photograph was taken before the fire at the Palm Court Hotel (bottom left, shown here as the Mojo Bar) in December 2010, and the fire at the Conway Court Hotel in December 2011 (top center right).

Source: Arpingstone/Wikipedia

It’s likely from feces in the water source. Citizens have been told to boil their water before using it to stay healthy. A crisis like this reminds people that buying bottled water from other parts of the country will save them from panicking if something like a water crisis happens locally. 


Who Should be Prepping?

According to the British Government, every household should be prepping. If every household prepares for many kinds of crises, then every household will be self-sufficient, which is what the British government believes their citizens should be.

Semi-detached houses on West Lane, England.

Source: Roger Templeman/ Wikimedia Commons

Although this may seem simple, it could pose difficulty for those families who struggle with the cost of living. Often, living paycheck to paycheck leaves no room for spare food when a family needs to be eating now.


The Effect of the Cost of Living Crisis

The UK is currently coping with a cost of living crisis. Many people are struggling to pay rent and even have food on the table more than ever. As the price of food and general living costs increase and people’s pay does not increase, buying anything becomes difficult.

A protester opposite Downing Street listens to one of the speakers on a day of action over the surging cost of living. One of the speakers was Jeremy Corbyn. He reminded the crowd of the cruelty of austerity resulting in hunger and death in a country which was the fifth richest in the world.

Source: Alisdare Hickson/Wikimedia Commons

Many households don’t have the spare money to prepare as they need it to look after their families and often can’t think of a crisis that may or may not happen. Although Dowden has not specifically mentioned these problems, there are food banks and other places households can visit if they are unable to get food on the table.