It turns out that the BBC's report is a fair summary of the ICE original. The thing that strikes me is that we have 'sleep walked' into a position where so many things are fragile. Here are a few examples:
- Many homes only have a central heating system that relies on both gas and electricity to work. Remove either in a cold snap and how many will freeze?
- New supermarkets have almost no storage space. One missed delivery and the shelves will empty.
- People purchase enough food for a couple of days. They have little or no staples in store - and probably couldn't cook them if they did.
- The interlinking of support contracts between communications providers which means that two simultaneous failures could be difficult to manage. For example, Virgin Media has outsourced its voice network management contract to BT - while, I understand, offering BT backup circuits for voice communication.
- Striving for 'efficiency' often means cutting back to the bone - shown in how stretched the NHS is each winter.
Interestingly, there are things that the individual can do to reduce the problem - both for themselves and for their neighbours. The first rule is "do not add to the problem". This means that if there is panic buying at the supermarket, you don't want to be there.
Here are some practical suggestions:
- Do not rely on any particular service or supply. Do not get rid of that gas fire, or block up that chimney.
- Keep a stock of food that will mean that you won't starve if you can't get to the supermarket for a week. If you don't have a cold water tank, include some cheap bottled water - if you do, keep some empty PET bottles to fill up.
- Make sure that you have something to cook on (and fuel for it) - if you go camping, you probably have this already.
- Be prepared to check on your neighbours, and help them if the need arises.