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U.K. government warns Brits to stock up on battery-powered radios and flashlights to prepare for coming catastrophes
By Cassie B. // Dec 07, 2023

The U.K. government has warned Brits to prepare for a potential catastrophe by stocking up on battery-powered radios, candles and other supplies.

This is according to U.K. Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden, who said that Brits need to be more “personally resilient” and less reliant on electronic devices and those that are connected to the internet. The message came during his first annual statement on “risk and resilience,” in which he emphasized that risks are “evolving faster than ever,” citing the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, extreme weather conditions like flooding, misuse of technologies like artificial intelligence, and the growing sophistication of cyber attacks.

The senior Tory cabinet minister is currently setting up a resilience website and academy that will aid individuals and businesses in better preparing for future catastrophes such as cyber attacks, natural disasters and pandemics.

The site, which should be available next year, will offer people guidance on how they can prepare for a range of emergencies, especially those that leave them without power to run the devices they depend on for communications. It will also provide tips on protecting against risks such as email scams and phishing.

The academy, which is being formed with £10 million in funds, will train professionals who work in certain roles to provide them with crisis management and emergency planning skills.

One item Dowden believes that all households need is a radio that does not rely on electricity to be run, such as the battery-operated and hand-cranked varieties. He said that the public has become too dependent on the internet. This means that if a disaster strikes and we are unable to get online, those without access to a radio could find themselves in an information vacuum.

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“It always used to be the case that everyone would be able to access a battery-operated radio,” he noted.

“How many people have a communication device that isn't reliant on digital and electric? We shouldn't assume that the resilience we had as individuals when we were growing up is the same now because society has digitized,” he added before emphasizing the importance of having the means to get news in the event of an emergency.

While many households kept candles and flashlights on hand in the past, this has become less common in modern times as people use the flashlight feature on their smartphone.

He cautioned that a catastrophe could strike without warning and people will need to be prepared. He also said that the government’s new resilience website will have a function allowing members of the public to sign up as volunteers to help out in the event of a crisis.

He also warned about the dangers of AI, which he says poses a “chronic risk” and could well make it easier for criminals to carry out cyber-attacks.

He said: “The proverbial teenage kid in their bedroom with the application of AI is going to be a much better hacker than they were previously. The ability of lone, malign individuals to have greater capabilities to develop biological threats increases with AI. Likewise with chemical risks.”

Stock up on batteries, flashlights, food and other supplies

In addition to having a good stock of batteries, flashlights and a radio, the U.K.’s National Grid recommends keeping items such as ready-to-eat food, water, blankets and thick clothes on hand to get through an extended power cut. Any medical equipment you rely on, like a stair lift, should have battery backup.

“The world has changed unrecognisably and our society is highly reliant on our digital infrastructure," Dowden said. “Government needs to ensure that we are resilient in this digital age, ensuring that our structures take this into account, including considering those analogue capabilities that it makes sense to retain.”

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