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Stock up on candles and radio batteries!

Deputy PM’s disaster alert in case of power meltdown

By David Barrett Home Affairs Editor

HOUSEHOLDS should stock up on candles and battery-powered radios in case a catastrophe cripples digital gadgets, the deputy prime minister has warned.

Oliver Dowden urged people to prepare for being thrown back to an ‘analogue’ era if internet and power systems collapse.

Details will be set out in an official government ‘resilience website’ – launching next year – which will offer advice on how to prepare for natural disasters, pandemics and malicious acts such as cyber attacks or terrorism.

Mr Dowden suggested people had become too reliant on the internet which could leave them isolated in an information vacuum during a disaster. ‘It always used to be the case that everyone would be able to access a battery-operated radio,’ Mr Dowden said.

‘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 digitised.’

In the past it was common to keep ‘a torch or candles’ in the cupboard under the stairs. But society had ‘changed unrecognisably’ in the past 20 or 30 years, Mr Dowden said, adding: ‘ The Government needs to ensure we are resilient in this digital age – including considering those analogue capabilities that it makes sense to retain. If you had a power outage and you wanted to get news, where would you get that news from? In the olden days, you’d switch on the radio and you’d hear what was going on.’

Mr Dowden, whose responsibilities include building the UK’s resilience to emergencies, said he was revisiting official advice to ensure Britons are ‘prepared and personally resilient’.

‘It could be tomorrow that one of these things hits,’ he said. The new website will allow members of the public to register as volunteers to help out in a regional or national crisis.

Mr Dowden also warned that AI poses a ‘chronic risk’ and will increase the risks of cyber attacks and even the threat posed from chemical weapons.

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

The deputy prime minister made his remarks during a visit to Porton Down, Wiltshire, where the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory works to protect Britain from chemical, biological and radiological threats.





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