Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Saturday 11 September 2010

Being prepared on a grand scale

“It's all very well and good preparing for a giant earthquake, but in the end you might as well plan for a meteor strike or a volcano.”

That was the opinion of an unnamed police officer after a three-day police exercise simulating a major earthquake striking our green and pleasant – and usually very static – land.

The event was officially described as ‘extremely unlikely’ and ‘unthinkable’; Britain may get between 200 and 300 quakes a year but the vast majority are so small that the only people going to get excited about them are seismologists who don’t get out much.

Granted, the £826,000 cost of the exercise is a lot of money, given the fact that we may never see an earthquake measuring 8 on the Richter scale, but one assumes the lessons learned could be applied in other circumstances:

‘The disaster, recreated near Portsmouth, caused motorways and apartment blocks to collapse, oil storage plants to be damaged and cars to start burning. In Merseyside the mock exercise involved creating an “urban street scene” complete with burning buildings, trapped “victims” and 40 smashed up cars.’

It doesn’t take an earthquake to cause any of these, as the inhabitants of Buncefield or Warrington could tell you. And if I’m ever caught in a disaster of that kind, I’d like to know that there was someone out there who had an idea of what should be done.

And, of course, if Lembit Opik is to be believed, there’s always the chance that there is an asteroid out there with our name on it.


  1. "Granted, the £826,000 cost of the exercise is a lot of money..."

    Not all out money, though - it's an EU thing.

  2. Good point, JuliaM - it's also a fair bet that at least some of the money found its way into the struggling local economies of Portsmouth and Merseyside, among others.


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