Revisiting the four minute warnings and the utterly pointless survival advice

I can remember being at high school when the nuclear war issue was hot and the cold-war paranoia was buzzing.  There was much talk of four-minute warnings and fall-out and nuclear shelters that only the rich and the powerful could afford.  Margaret Thatcher said that all local councils should build one and my father, who hated her, would fume at the fact that only the elite got to retreat there in the event of a dirty bomb going off. 

There were government information announcements telling us what action to take should we hear the chilling four-minute warning – how to Protect-and-Survive.  I seem to remember they showed us doors being pulled off hinges and leant against walls that we were to hide under – amongst cushions.  I’m not sure how accurate my memory is but Lordy,  did they really think we stood a flying chance of surviving a nuclear blast, with all its nasty after-effects, by hiding under a propped-up door with a few scatter cushions for padding?

I can also remember a book by Raymond Briggs called When the Wind Blows.  I’m sure I once had a copy but anyway, my friend had one and she brought it into school.  We all read it in class with our very cool form tutor and I can remember feeling spooked and saddened by it . . . and really quite angry.  The book was about a confused little old man and his dear wife trying to survive a nuclear attack.  Thinking about it, the image I have of propped-up doors and cushions probably comes from this dear couple who, in their confused naivety, were trying to shelter under a door that they’d leaned against the wall.  Well, whichever it was, the Protect-and-Survive programme seemed pretty pointless to us all.

Anyway, we would have long discussions about it with our tutor.  We got silly about the doomsday scenario and came up with ridiculous things that we would do if we had only four minutes left to live.  And we talked about the injustice, the stupidity and the futility of war.  And later, as young and militant minds are prone to do, we all went on a ban-the-bomb rampage across school.  Our teachers encouraged us at first but soon clipped our activism when they thought we were taking undue advantage of the free time they were allowing us out of class.  Would we ever?

These days the old MAD doctrine seems to have been forgotten and government shelters around the country have been left to crumble but it seems that some people, muchly due to the uncertainty of the future of humanity, are once again feeling the need for self-sufficiency and are thus preparing for new threats such as bird flu pandemic, food and water shortages/wars, terror, blackout looting, the collapse of infastructure, hurricanes and so on.  They’re calling it New Survivalism.

So, do any of you have a plan?  What would your secret little survival stash consist of should you ever be faced with an apocalyptic event of some kind or another?

My list would go something like this:

  • Food of course (tinned, dried, powdered, whatever, of varied nutrient value)
  • tin opener! (I’m sure to forget that)
  • water (cups, plates etc)
  • radio (to communicate)
  • wine
  • clothing
  • bedding
  • wine
  • books/games
  • first aid gear/medicines
  • torches
  • wine
  • candles
  • wine
  • toiletries
  • loo roll
  • toilet! (the thought of not having a loo for a family of five is too horrible to even contemplate)
  • wine
  • mascara (well you never know who you might meet in a nuclear bunker)
  • wine
  • mobile phone (or maybe not.  It would be refreshing not to be pestered everywhere I go by telesales and stupid chain text messages (although the chances of that happening during a nuclear war would be remote I suppose))
  • PC/TV/PS2/CD’sDVD’s (although I’m not that sure we’d have electricity)
  • batteries
  • wine
  • plastic bags for rubbish

 Have I missed anything?  Let me know.  I wouldn’t want to be caught short.  Oh, I almost forgot one.

  • wine



18 responses to this post.

  1. Earthpal, your list has some good items, .some not quite so good 🙂 What you’ve missed out is somewhere to put all your stuff. If you’re riding out some disaster in your own home, then fair enough, you’ve probably got room for wine and makeup. If it’s a 5-star nuke/fallout scenario, you’re going to be a bit tight on space in the cupboard under the stairs. The ‘Protect and Survive’ sanitary advice, IIRC, was a bin bag in a bucket 🙂
    My personal position is that there’s a wide spectrum of situations where we might need to be able to fall back on our own resources, from a simple power cut , through severe weather or floods, to a Hollywood-style disaster epic.
    If anyone’s really interested, I can supply links to some ‘preparedness’ sites that aren’t gung-ho gun nuts. I’m toying with the idea of setting up a site aimed at practical survival in the UK suburbs.


  2. Hi Pete, well my list was a bit humorous of course . . . but I’m deadly serious about the mascara. lol.

    Seriously though, I reckon it would be a good idea to set up a practical survival website. I would be interested. My list might have been meant in jest but there really is future uncertainty and it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that we will one day need to be self-sufficient to some degree or other. In fact, I’m pretty sure it will happen.

    I still haven’t got round to starting my vegetable patch. It’s the digging. I need to have a word with that Charlie Dimmock gal.


  3. I think the idea of preparedness ties in with off-grid living. It’s not just disconnecting from electricity and water, but all the other invisible ‘grids’ that support us.
    It came home to me when watching the news coverage of New Orleans and the UK floods last year. People left their homes with nothing and just expected to be taken care of.


  4. Team work is necessary. Families alone won’t survive. There should be a plan already prepared by zones, as happened with WWII bombings. That way apart from having the necessary victualling and items, there’ll be a sense of community, somebody to talk to and hear.

    Nuclear attacks are not like conventional bombings, there is always the lingering dust to deal with.

    But it’d better be no bombing.

    By the way I see wine is repeated in your list. Make it red, it’s healthier and no ice is needed. LOL.


  5. There’s a lot of concern (in my mind quite justified) about the perils of submitting ourselves to centrally planned schemes for disaster recovery. One of the motivators for ‘survivalists’ in the US is that they’d rather die than submit themselves to FEMA’s tender mercies. They’d rather rely on their own resources than end up in an overcrowded government camp with rationing (at best) or no food or water.


  6. You both have a point. I too don’t like the idea of an overcrowded government camp but left to their own devices, communities do tend to rally together and support each other in a crisis. Of course that wouldn’t work for all situations.

    Individually, even when communities are working together, people can also get fiercely protective if they think they’re survival is threatened. If there aren’t enough rations, individuals will fight for their own family.


  7. And that’s why the survivalist movement in the US (they have a head start on us because of their recent frontier history and pioneer spirit) makes such a big thing of self-defence. Hence their public image as gun nut whackos, which devalues a lot of the sensible stuff.
    I still think we should be more self-reliant and not expect everything to be done for us. Like the people who let their uncollected rubbish sacks fester in piles in the street and spend all their spare time complaining, when they could take responsibility for the problem and clear it up themselves. So good for community spirit too.


  8. Pete has a good point about the Katrina and the UK floods; both government have fallen well short in the help they provided, especially the US.

    The Grit has recently revealed that he keeps supplies of basic food stuffs up to a year ahead. He certainly does not trust his government.

    Me, I have a NZ passport. 🙂


  9. More wine and a best friend! (Someone decent to talk to!) 😆


  10. Conversation’s good of course, but the downside is you might have to share the wine 🙂


  11. Hey, MissyL, you’re back. I missed you.

    Yes, wine and a good friend.

    Pete, how about if we say . . . friend must bring own wine. A kind of bring-a-bottle bunker party!


  12. Matt, yes Pete’s right. It would be foolish to rely on the state because as you pointed out, we’ve already seen how they fail to turn up.


  13. “friend must bring own wine”
    earthpal, you’d be amazed at some of the debates I’ve read on survivalist etiquette; What do you do when friends and/or neighbours turn up at the door of your retreat? Should you offer charity to refugees? How do you do that without advertising the fact you’ve got enough to share?

    “It would be foolish to rely on the state because as you pointed out, we’ve already seen how they fail to turn up”
    Of course, sometimes the situation can be so desperate that the authorities can’t cope, despite their best efforts. Be that as it may, a culture has grown up of waiting for government help to turn up, rather than helping ourselves. Being prepared and self-reliant is good for us, and it frees up resources for people who genuinely need it.


  14. Pete, when are you building that ‘secret’ bunker under the tomato crop down at your allotment …..


  15. Well, Matt, it was a secret… 🙂

    Don’t grow tomatoes on the allotment no mo’, they jus’ sicken ‘n’ die.


  16. Pete # 13 – Survivalist etiquette? Goodness! These are things I’ve never even thought of.

    Matty, methinks me and you and our kin will be gatecrashing the earth beneath Pete’s secret former tomato patches. I don’t know about you but I am clearly unclued-up and will probably perish at the first hurdle.

    Joking apart, Pete, you’re right again. There are some situations that humanity just wouldn’t be able to overpower or gain control of and we’d be wise to know our limits and be prepared.


  17. Be prepared? Well, you could try gaining tips from this movie;



  18. Hehehe.

    Simon Pegg is so funny.


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