A prudent householder is always braced for minor emergencies: keeping candles, batteries and a radio to hand. Residents of climates prone to extreme weather may even get in supplies of fresh water and dry food. However, few UK citizens – their countries traditionally both meteorologically and politically placid – will ever have pondered the necessity of fleeing their homes at short notice.
This past weekend, several UK police forces tweeted suggestions that people ready a “grab bag”: a cache of necessities – including duct tape, a whistle and a phone charger – to be shouldered at the onset of some maddeningly unspecified calamity. They were running with an initiative called 30 Days 30 Ways UK, a British version of a US campaign that uses the days of September to gamify preparedness: a daily email, available from 30 Days 30 Ways UK’s website, presents a daily challenge that can be crossed off upon completion.
In previous years, 30 Days 30 Ways UK has gained little traction. But in 2019, it has coincided with the month before the Brexit departure deadline on 31 October. So while other 30 Days 30 Ways UK recommendations have been basic common sense – washing hands, learning road signs – the grab bag has struck a fraying nerve. Amid the online mockery, there has also been an amount of genuine bewilderment: a reminder that if a public-information campaign fails to read the room, it can be the opposite of reassuring.