Germany’s new “civil defense strategy” and emergency preparations

I note with interest that Germany has announced a new civil defense plan.

Germany will introduce its first civil defence strategy since the end of the Cold War, calling on the population to stockpile enough food and water for several days, according to a report Sunday.

The plan, which makes civilian backing of troops a priority while boosting the resilience of buildings and increasing capacity in the healthcare system, is due to be adopted by the government Wednesday, according to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) daily.

Contacted by AFP, an interior ministry spokesman confirmed that the cabinet was due to adopt a civil defence strategy but declined details about the concept or comment on the newspaper report.

The strategy noted that “an attack on German territory requiring conventional defence is unlikely,” but said the country should be “sufficiently prepared in case of an existence-threatening development in the future that cannot be ruled out,” according to the 69-page strategy quoted by the FAZ ..

“The population will be encouraged to stockpile food for ten days,” it said, adding that five days’ worth of water — at an estimated two litres per person per day — should also be set aside.

There’s more at the link.

So-called ‘civil defense‘ is a field of particular interest to me, because (among many other things) I was once a part-time, volunteer Civil Defense Sector Officer for a large section of the central business district of a major South African city.  The field has changed its focus over the past few decades.  In my active days in the field, we trained to mitigate the effects of military or terrorist attacks.  Nowadays, as Wikipedia points out, “the focus of civil defense has largely shifted from military attack to emergencies and disasters in general”.

I was particularly interested to see the German plan’s suggestion that civilians stockpile food for ten days, and water for five.  In the USA, FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) recommends at least a three-day supply of food and water.  On the other hand, other agencies of US government appear to be on a different page.  As Survival Blog has pointed out:

No matter what topic the training session concerns, every DHS [Department of Homeland Security] sponsored course I have attended over the past few years never fails to branch off into warnings about potential domestic terrorists in the community.  While this may sound like a valid officer and community safety issue, you may be disturbed to learn how our Federal government describes a typical domestic terrorist … Based on the training I have attended, here are characteristics that qualify:

    Expressions of libertarian philosophies (statements, bumper stickers)
    Second Amendment-oriented views (NRA or gun club membership, holding a CCW permit)
    Survivalist literature
    Self-sufficiency (stockpiling food, ammo, hand tools, medical supplies)
    Fear of economic collapse (buying gold and barter items)
    Religious views concerning the book of Revelation (apocalypse, anti-Christ)
    Expressed fears of Big Brother or big government
    Declarations of Constitutional rights and civil liberties
    Belief in a New World Order conspiracy

A recent training session I attended encouraged law enforcement agencies to work with business owners to alert police when customers appear to be stockpiling items.

Again, more at the link.  Of course, the DHS checklist implies that if you follow the FEMA checklist, you may be “all right” in the eyes of the latter department, but a “potential domestic terrorist” in the eyes of the former!  Big Brother can be schizophrenic sometimes . . .

There’s a great deal to think about in terms of what to stockpile for emergencies.  Some so-called “preppers” or “survivalists” take an extreme view, to the point of orienting their entire lives around such activities.  Others, including myself, take a more pragmatic view.  We prepare supplies for likely emergencies, plus a few additional items for unexpectedly long-duration crises.  (Such a view is often forced upon us by economic necessity.  I simply can’t afford either the goods or the storage space for a full year’s supply of food and water for my family, in the form of a balanced, tasty diet plus all the required accessories – cooking materials and fuel, alternative sanitation techniques and supplies, power generation, etc.)  If you’d like an in-depth look at that sort of thing, here’s a handy article.  I’ve covered several other aspects in my series of articles about emergency preparations, many of which are listed in the sidebar of this blog.  For a real-world example of practical considerations during an emergency, see my article ‘Lessons learned from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005‘.

We’ve already seen that a major terrorist attack can shut down parts of a city (including access routes to and from it) for at least several hours, probably a day or two, perhaps even weeks before everything gets back to normal.  Residents may not be allowed to enter or leave until the crisis is over.  It’s a very good idea to have sufficient supplies on hand to cope with that – hence the German plan’s suggestion of a ten-day emergency supply of food.  I think that’s an absolute minimum.  I strongly recommend a thirty-day supply of food, and at least half that of water.  (Remember that your hot water cylinder is a useful reserve supply in an emergency.  Most models hold thirty to fifty gallons of potable water.  Switch off the heating element, and use it sparingly.  Unfortunately, tankless water heaters don’t offer that option.)

If you’re very short of funds and simply can’t afford to invest a lot in emergency preparations, and/or are very short of space to store supplies (such as in a small city apartment), there are still practical steps you can take.  Consider stockpiling some emergency ration bars (I find these the best-tasting of those I’ve tested – they’re available in 1-day or 10-day packs) and a few dozen 20oz. or half-liter bottles of water (the smaller bottles are more easily stored in available nooks and crannies, and can be carried relatively easily if necessary, whereas bigger bottles might be too large and unwieldy).  Such limited supplies aren’t ideal, but they’ll keep you alive for a week or two in an emergency until something better becomes available.



  1. There was a recent FEMA email that changed the recommendation to 7 days of food and water. still calls out 3 days, however.

    Given the response of the last several emergencies, I would say 7 days is a bare minimum for moderate regional emergencies, such as flooding and hurricanes. A Carrington level event is likely to push that beyond 30 days.

  2. If businesses are really being trained that way, just carry your FEMA brochure with you and look like you are being a good citizen. 🙂 Every time you make yet another purchase of all those essential items at subsequent shops. LOL.

  3. "Remember that your hot water cylinder is a useful reserve supply in an emergency. Most models hold thirty to fifty gallons of potable water. "

    Lots of people think of this, including me. BUT my experience during hurricane IKE require some caveats.

    If the supply system is compromised, so will be the water in your hot water heater. Falling supply pressure led to contamination of the public water supply, followed by a boil order during IKE in Houston. By the time that order when out, the water in my heater had ALREADY BEEN CONTAMINATED.

    It can still be used for sanitation and can be boiled or filtered or treated, but don't count on it for potable water.

    Depending on the region and your local threats, the water heater might be drained or damaged by the earthquake or twister, or otherwise broken pipes….

    In other words, it's nice to have, but don't count on it. Stockpile, and have means to treat if your stockpile is compromised or unavailable.


  4. the easiest way to store water in bulk is to use 55 gallon drums. Once used, food grade drums are around $20-40.

  5. It's been said if you're not on some sort of government watch list then you're probably not living right.

    Something for those unfortunate enough to be on some sort of permanent medication regimen to think about. It's extremely difficult,impossible or even illegal to stockpile several weeks or months of medication. It would probably be wise to sit down with your physician and discuss the best way to deal with a disruption of your ability to fill a prescription. How is the best way to taper off, substitute or otherwise adjust to not having access to your medication. Unfortunately for many, an emergency situation that cuts off access to their meds will result in death and not a pretty one at that. Some might be ok for a while and but others will be left in agony until they succumb.

    But hey at least some degenerate junkie somewhere might find getting high slightly more difficult so you can die knowing that. Maybe it'll be a comfort to grandma's loved ones as she lay dying from a stroke that they won't have to worry about her having too many blood pressure meds around either.

  6. What makes buying emergency supplies daunting is what makes eating an elephant daunting – there's a whole lot of elephant. No one, however, eats an elephant in one sitting.

    Simply increasing your normal purchases by a few items every week will give you a fairly well stocked larder in a relatively short period of time. Better, it will be stuff you normally eat so you don't have to learn to like it. Eventually, the larder will restock your kitchen as you run out of something and your shopping will restock the larder.

    For example, we have at least 3 jars of mayonnaise in the larder. Last time we needed mayonnaise I checked the dates of the three jars on the basement shelf, picked the oldest, and never had to leave the house. A newly purchased jar will take its place at the end of the queue to replace the one that moved upstairs.

    This ready reserve should see us through any short-term emergency. We can always break out the long-term stuff if things really go south.

  7. If you take a look at the timelines for Katrina and Sandy, you'll see that a week is insufficient. Three weeks might be insufficient. I have a whole different level of paranoid. I live between three major fault lines. The Juan de Fuca fault doesn't worry me that much. The Seattle fault line – runs from the Olympic Penisula across Hood Canal, the south end of Bainbridge Island, Elliot Bay, Down Town Seattle, then follows I-90 out to about North Bend. In the process, it crosses 3 or 4 major sewer pipelines, 1 major liquid fuel pipeline, 1 major natural gas pipeline, and the major 500 kV power line. And I'm only a little worried about that one.

    The Cascadia Subduction Fault is scary. The estimated area of effect is Vancouver Canada to Sacramento California. The prediction is that it will be at least a 9.0 – This is a what gets called a mega uplift event where the growing Juan de Fuca Plate pushes under the North American Plate. It's all held in place by friction – when the pressure gets high enough – it snaps.

    The estimates for the Greater Seattle area are 80 Bridges collapse, over 1000 buildings fail (some of those are hospitals). Ground transportation is crippled. Every major pipeline is fractured (see above). The power grid is down. Water is contaminated and everything from 1st to 3rd is under water. They are assuming a Tsunami that will be a minimum of 10-20 feet. Now that's just Seattle – add in every coastal city and town from Vancouver / Victoria Canada down to at least Cresent City, CA.

    Likelihood – 100% – timeline – anytime within the next 150 years. So yeah there's better than a 70% chance that I'll miss it entirely (I'm okay with that) – even so.

    So what do you think – 3 days? a week? three weeks? I'm guessing it'll take a bit longer than that to clean up. I think for most people – a month is not out of line. And if you live in a place like I do, longer – maybe a lot longer.

    There is an interesting phycology going on between preppers and non-preppers. Ridiculing people who are different is as old as the human race I suspect. Yet, the only thing that sets most preppers apart is an unwillingness to assume that the government will take care of you. Here's a group of people (and I use the term group loosely) who are doing nothing but increasing your odds of surviving a natural disaster by not being an additional drain on a stressed system. And yet, people feel the need to insult them. What a noble creature is man.

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