State starts urging crisis preparation

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Severe storms and greater potential for other calamities are prompting new campaigns that will urge Norwegians to be better prepared for a crisis. Everyone should be able to get by without electricity for at least 72 hours, claim state and local officials, with brochures full of advisories set to be distributed to households in Oslo this fall.

Extreme weather has become much more common in Norway in recent years, causing power failures, fires, flooding and other calamity. With international political tension high as well, Norwegians are being urged to be better prepared. PHOTO: Telenor

Climate change, more extreme weather, terrorism and cyber attacks are all making crisis preparation much more relevant. Not since the days of the Cold War have authorities resorted to such active efforts to urge citizens, not just in Norway, to be prepared for the worst with enough food, water and sources of warmth on hand.

Officials across the border in Sweden are already sending out information to Swedish households this month about how to cope in a crisis situation. The Swedes define potential crises as everything from war and terrorist attacks to lengthy power failures, water system shutdowns, food delivery disruptions and a breakdown of the electronic banking system.

Swedes are also being warned against the prospect of fake news in the case of national emergency. Newspaper Aftenposten reports that the Swedish brochures being distributed to all households this month stress the following: “If Sweden is attacked by another country, we will never give up. Any messages that opposition should cease are false.”

Emphasis on ‘climate-related events’
The Norwegians aren’t opting for warnings as dire as the Swedes’, or even mentioning the possibility of attacks, whether through war or terrorism. “We have more focus on the more usual crisis scenarios than war,” Cecilie Daae, director of Norway’s state directorate for safety and preparedness (DSB), told Aftenposten. “We’re more concerned with climate-related events and not least being prepared to cope with 72 hours without electricity.”

Daae noted that she and her colleagues “have noticed that the Swedish brochure has a different tone. We look at this a bit differently.”

Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide specifically mentioned the need for crisis preparedness in a meeting last week with foreign correspondents in Oslo. She had plenty of drinking water standing by. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund

Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide, however, has said she’s definitely concerned about crises that can result from political conflict as well as natural disasters. In a meeting with foreign correspondents in Oslo last week, Søreide included crisis preparation among the major issues she’s now stressing, right after EU issues and strengthening multilateral international organizations.

“Conflict is more common and we’re unable to prevent many crises,” Søreide said, stressing that preparedness is critical at all levels, public and private. There was no mention of the border Norway shares with Russia, which is under constant surveillance at all times, but Søreide acknowledged how tensions have risen with Russia, while the new US president has also raised uncertainty, even among allies. Søreide acknowledged that Norway now openly disagrees with the US on a number of issues.

Rural areas better prepared than urban
Daae, meanwhile, believes that Norwegians living in rural areas and small towns are better prepared than those living in cities. “Power failures that extend over several days can be demanding,” Daae told Aftenposten. “Folks are better prepared out in the country than they are in the cities, where it’s expected that everything works all the time.”

In the event it doesn’t, Daae and her state directorate are cooperating with the officials at the City of Oslo on production of the upcoming Norwegian emergency advisory. It will include a new brochure that will be delivered to all households in Oslo and urge all Norwegians to have drinking water and non-perishable food on hand, along with a DAB radio with batteries, flashlights, candles, firewood (for those with fireplaces), matches, first-aid kits, adequate medical supplies and a cooking apparatus that uses gas or other fuel and can provide some warm food.

Cash can still be king
Despite tax authorities’ desire for a cashless society where all payments can be registered for their review, their counterparts at the preparedness directorate urge Norwegians to maintain cash reserves at home as well. In the event of a massive power failure, cyber attack or even war, electronic banking will likely break down and bank card terminals won’t function.

Households are also urged to have a portable recharging apparatus for mobile phones, if they’re still usable in a crisis. A supply of various fresh batteries can also be good to have.

A recent survey conducted for Norway’s preparedness directorate (Direktoratet for sammfunssikkerhet og beredskap, DSB) shows that fully 93 percent of Norwegian households have candles, 92 percent have flashlights, 88 percent have matches and 74 percent have first-aid kits. The numbers fall when it comes to cash (48 percent),  cooking equipment that doesn’t require electricity (35 percent) and drinking water (21 percent). With Oslo already facing water shortages after the recent spate of hot weather, more attention may be placed on storing more water, and food that doesn’t require cooking.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund