... then you don't need any advice. In this vein, the Government is about to send out 25 million copies of this leaflet to every home in Britain. The booklet hovers for twenty-two pages between the banale and the criminally stupid, offering up such nuggets of information as the suggestion that, when a terrorist attack occurs, you should, (emphasis mine)
- Go inside a safe building
- Stay inside until you are advised to do otherwise
- Tune in to local radio or TV for more information
-- because, after all, terrorists have never been known to plant secondary devices in places to which survivors of a blast might flee. Quite apart from the fact that we're repeatedly being told that al Qaeda might use a bomb to distribute radioactive or poisonous materials, in which case staying in the area is unlikely to be wise. (This particular piece of advice is a little upsetting, since it could actually kill people.)
About the only piece of advice in the leaflet which isn't obvious is the suggestion that, to secure one's business premises, one should look at a website run by MI5. This even contains -- would you believe -- a section on protecting your business from KGB moles. Errm, I'm sorry, I meant `terrorists', obviously.
The new booklet, Preparing for Emergencies, makes for an interesting comparison with Protect and Survive and other `how to survive a nuclear war' advice from the same era. Back then, we were expected to show initiative and DIY skills, for instance by propping a door up against a wall and hiding underneath it for two weeks, occasionally emerging to shit in a bucket and try to tune into the BBC. When it was published, Protect and Survive was ridiculed for the uselessness of advice such as,
If you live in a caravan or other similar accommodation which provides very little protection against fall-out your local authority will be able to advise you on what to do.
Your local authority? Really? I wouldn't trust my local authority to advise its way out of a wet paper bag, but we may just be unlucky in this bit of the country. I am reminded of the (perhaps apocryphal) leaflet distributed by the Iranian government during the war with Iraq in the 1980s. The leaflet was entitled (roughly) `What to do if you are attacked with modern chemical weapons' and ran, in summary, like this:
In fact, the 1980s nuclear leaflets, like Preparing for Emergencies, never really got to grips with the fact that, in a nuclear war, lots of people will die. Even the leaflet on the work of the UK Warning and Monitoring Organisation can't quite bring itself to mention this simple fact, instead stepping to the brink and then swiftly retreating:
Life goes on.... Through the existence, readiness and prompt response of UKWMO, ten million lives may have been saved -- to see the dawn of another day.
There was, however, a chilling TV and radio broadcast on the subject:
If however you have had a body in the house for more than five days, and if it is safe to go outside, then you should bury the body for the time being in a trench, or cover it with earth, and mark the spot of the burial.
For another interesting contrast, it is worth reading the 1940 leaflet, If the Invader Comes. Unlike the later leaflets, this extraordinary document supposed that, in the event of a dire national crisis, the people of the country will not lose all ability to think rationally and automatically rush about like headless chickens. There are various helpful suggestions (in CAPITAL LETTERS, no less):
DO NOT GIVE ANY GERMAN ANYTHING. DO NOT TELL HIM ANYTHING. HIDE YOUR FOOD AND YOUR BICYCLES. HIDE YOUR MAPS. SEE THAT THE ENEMY GETS NO PETROL. IF YOU HAVE A CAR OR MOTOR BICYCLE, PUT IT OUT OF ACTION WHEN NOT IN USE. IT IS NOT ENOUGH TO REMOVE THE IGNITION KEY; YOU MUST MAKE IT USELESS TO ANYONE EXCEPT YOURSELF.
IF YOU ARE A GARAGE PROPRIETOR, YOU MUST WORK OUT A PLAN TO PROTECT YOUR STOCK OF PETROL AND YOUR CUSTOMERS CARS. REMEMBER THAT TRANSPORT AND PETROL WILL BE THE INVADER'S MAIN DIFFICULTIES. MAKE SURE THAT NO INVADER WILL BE ABLE TO GET HOLD OF YOUR CARS, PETROL, MAPS OR BICYCLES.
and without a helpful leaflet in pastel colours to explain how to do so. All in all, If the Invader Comes is quite an inspiring document. Perhaps this just results from our romantic notions about the Britain of the 1940s, but certainly it's better written than its modern cousins and its unspoken assumptions are uplifting rather than depressing. I wonder if, in analogous circumstances today, we could expect people to behave as suggested in rule five: (emphasis mine)
You may be asked by Army and Air Force officers to help in many ways. For instance, the time may come when you will receive orders to block roads or streets in order to prevent the enemy from advancing. Never block a road unless you are told which one you must block. Then you can help by felling trees, wiring them together or blocking the roads with cars. Here, therefore, is the fifth rule:-
Update: had I seen it in time, I would certainly have linked to this splendid spoof of the new Government leaflet. Its contents are probably just as useful as those of the real document....