The Ventilator

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Are you emergency ready?

Cat James
Latest posts by Cat James (see all)

There’s an enduring quote by a Greek philosopher which goes, “We must free ourselves of the hope that the sea will ever rest. We must learn to sail in high winds.”

This isn’t from a wise mind of the ancient world, but another Aristotle – Onassis – one of the twentieth century’s richest men. But whoevs; you get the idea. And, of course, Onassis should know about rough seas, having been a shipping magnate.

In these unrelentingly restless times, we find ourselves perpetually hand-wringing. Want some triggers? In a recent speech launching a new resilience framework, Deputy Prime Minister, Oliver Dowden, cited biosecurity hazards, geopolitical tensions and malign on-line actors as threats to our cosy way of life.

At first glance, you might think that this is unnecessary fear-mongering; designed to get the populace onside for further expenditure on defence. Current Prime Minister Rishi Sunak asserts the country needs a ‘national endeavour’ to secure the future of the budget-sucking military and civil nuclear industries, plus – as I type – compulsory national service for teenagers. Personally, I’d rather that £75 billion earmarked for defence spending over the next six years was allocated for other renewable energies, sustainable transport, free further education and healthcare, but then I’m a bleeding-heart Greenie.

Dowden assured us that he is not “some sort of doomsday prepper”, as he lists batteries, bottled water and canned goods as necessary items for your stockpile. However, if you must evacuate your home, there is one small thing you can do to prepare for the immediate aftermath. Led by the Cabinet Office, the Isle of Wight Council is promulgating a local community resilience message.

We are exhorted to fill what is jauntily called a ‘grab bag’ with essentials, which we can heft as we slam the front door behind us, escaping our Graben-precarious home as it’s perilously close to sliding its way to collapse, or our sea-level property is swilling with backed-up sewage.

The big question is: what would you stuff your sack with? Items of financial and sentimental value, such as heirloom jewellery? Or a practical tool like a wind-up torch? How long could you survive without your prescription medicines?

I asked this question of Martin Webster, volunteer ambassador of charity Shelterbox. The organisation provides shelter, essential items and technical assistance to help some of the world’s most vulnerable people recover and rebuild their homes after disaster.

A shelterbox is not the same as your local grab bag which, if required, probably only needs to support you for a few hours or maybe days. Yet, having heard the stories of those who have found themselves homeless due to flood, fire or earthquake, Martin confirmed that the dispossessed find great comfort in lightweight items of great personal significance, particularly photographs of loved ones.

As well as items already mentioned, the council also suggests packing pet food and a mobile phone charger. I’d add your photo ID to that list, so you can use it wisely at the polling station in the impending general election.

This article first appeared in print in the Isle of Wight County Press on 25 August 2023 and also online.

Cat James

Graphic designer, creative director of Pinkeye Graphics, Isle of Wight County Press columnist, Cat out of Matt and Cat

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