This is the government webpage where you can download the latest National Risk Register of Civil Emergencies, updated in March 2015.
The first couple of figures are matrices that show the potential risks covered, which are graded according to likelihood and severity of a “reasonable worst case scenario”.
Figure 1 is all about “terrorist and other malicious attacks”: cyber attacks and physical attacks, on transport systems and infrastructure, and on crowds. The startling thing for me, in this figure, is that “smaller scale CBR terrorist attacks” are specifically mentioned. They have a Medium/Low probability, and a rating of 3/5 in terms of “overall relative impact” – exactly the same as an infrastructure attack. I definitely need to research more on terrorism as a whole. This is very sobering, and needs a lot more thought.
Figure 2 is more varied, and it’s actually titled “Other Risks”, which implies a great deal about how important the terrorism risks are thought to be. Pandemic influenza is highest, and I’ve blogged about that twice, though there’s more to say in the future. Effusive volcanic eruption is listed here as well, and fortunately I’ve covered that, to some degree.
Various sorts of weather events follow this, along with “widespread electricity failure”, the first time that’s been listed in it’s own right, apparently. I’ll definitely write about that specifically in a near-future post. Major accidents, industrial disruption, public disorder and animal diseases are the other issues listed. Quite a mix, and many of the possibilities are pretty disturbing.
All of these are big, intense events. Many preppers focus on the smaller, individual events first – illness, redundancy, house fires and the like, and that makes a great deal of sense, but the big events may still happen, there’s no doubt about it. It’s certainly possible to ensure your own relative safety from cyber attacks, by good backup practices amongst other things, and there are also things to be done to mitigate the effects of pandemics, to some degree.
The next risk mentioned is coastal flooding, on the scale of the 1953 disaster. Flood defences have made the east coast a good deal safer since then – apparently, the 2013 flooding was worse, but the impact much less, because of the defences and flood warnings we now have. And that’s an argument for good prepping if ever I heard it.
A widespread electricity failure, it’s now recognised, would be catastrophic. It’s never happened nationally, but it’s not impossible – even the storms of December 2013 affected over a million properties – how many people was that? And the transport system too – I was travelling on the 23rd December, and happened to have an early train leaving Euston Station. By the time I reached my destination, a large proportion of the railway network had stopped running, and I was very lucky to be able to relax in comfort at my destination. Hundreds of thousands of other travellers weren’t so lucky, but personal preps would have made their situations more tolerable, at least.
As for the domestic electricity supply, most people were re-connected on that occasion within 24 hours. That’s bad enough in a wet, cold winter (especially so close to Christmas), but 16,000 properties were without electricity for more than 2 days. And in a national event, there’s a process called Black Start that would be followed – but it would take up to five days, and “it could be weeks before some parts of the network are fully recovered and power is restored”. That’s a hugely important statement, very sobering.
So, the most important new posts to come specifically from this report include:
- CBRN precautions
- cyber security
- widespread electricity failure
- weather events.
Other elements, which still need to be covered, are major transport and industrial accidents, public disorder and disruptive industrial action. It’s not often a government report can make you think genuinely about your own safety, but this is one of those times.
For me personally, I know least of all about CBRN precautions, so that’s what I’ll be researching first, even though it’s not the most likely, especially as there’s a note in there that the government will be “making improvements to the communications plans to ensure that the public know what they can do to minimise the risk to them.” That would be great if they actually did that beforehand. And then widespread electricity failure, which could be very troubling indeed – and it’s inevitable that there will be some electricity failures, it happens regularly. The only issue is where, and how many will be affected: the more, the worse, of course. If my own area is affected, I aim to be able to get through without too many problems, and to ensure that my family do too, as well as a few vulnerable elderly neighbours who need a bit of a hand now and then.
Watch this space!