Monthly Archives: November 2015

Recognising the terrorist threat: UK Government Guidance

I’m interrupting the series on gardening to run a few posts about terrorism and our reaction to it, for obvious reasons.

Paris

This is the link to the download page for the advice published by the UK government very soon after the Paris attacks. According to the BBC earlier this week, it was meant to be published next week, to coincide with a planned security awareness week. They could have done a little bit more work on it, to be honest with you, but the most important thing is to get the information out in public.

This particular document is aimed at businesses – it includes advice on storing fertiliser safely, for example, and on how to secure your buildings against hostile vehicles and cyber threats. But it’s a great summary for all of us, letting us know some of what may be going on behind the scenes, and possibly giving us ideas about how we can further help ourselves.

It was reported by many news organisations around the world, of course including Sky News and The Telegraph but the BBC has come up trumps: their article here is a million miles away from the tripe they’ve been publishing recently about preparedness. It’s thoughtful, wide-ranging, informative, well-sourced and deals with the psychology of the situation, as well as the options. It’s written by Camila Ruz, who I see is a freelance science journalist. All power to her laptop.

Please download the government document to which I’ve linked, read it through, then check out what I’ve written below – I’m commenting below on it, one section at a time. Your own comments are welcome at any time.

The anti-terrorism hotlines to contact the Metropolitan Police and MI5 are at the bottom of this article.

Section One: Threat Levels

Useful to know, but not immediate: the threat level has been at “severe” for the UK, level 4 of 5, for a long time now.

Section Two: STAY SAFE: Terrorist Firearms and Weapons Attacks

This is the one I think most people will find most helpful. Run if you can, hide if you can’t, tell the security services what you can about the attackers when it’s safe to do so. And remember that the security services on the spot don’t know you, they don’t know whether or not you’re one of the attackers. For everyone’s sake, they have to make sure. Do as they tell you.

However, the points about planning are spectacularly uninformative:

  • What are your plans if there were an incident?
  • What are the local plans? e.g. personal emergency evacuation plan.

And thats it! Obviously, I’ll be covering planning to safeguard yourself in a post really soon, I’ve already spent some time drafting it.

Section Three: Vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIED)

This is about how organisations can fight against the effects of car bombs, which have sadly been deployed in the UK already. I don’t think there’s anything here that’s useful on an individual basis, except that maybe you can learn to recognise “hostile vehicle mitigation measures” when you see them at public venues.

Section Four: Suicide attacks

As Londoners and others will remember, these too have been used against us. Looking at the advice given to businesses here, I’d say there are a few relevant pieces of advice:

  • vehicle access control points can be extremely dangerous – potential suicide bombers might realise that they’re about to be apprehended, for example, and set off their devices early. An exchange of gunfire is also a possibility. It’s safer for you, and less constraining for the guards concerned, if you don’t dawdle around such places. Once you’re through, carry on, and leave the area.
  • as for any other occasion, stay aware, and let someone know if you see something suspicious.

Section Five: chemical, biological and radioactive threats

I’ve actually covered radiological threats already in a previous post (which you can see here) but the important bit as far as this document today is concerned is this: “The impact of a CBR attack would depend heavily on the success of the chosen method and the weather conditions at the time of the attack. The first indicators of a CBR attack may be the sudden appearance of powders, liquids or strange smells within the building, with or without an immediate effect on people.” That’s useful information, that we all could bear in mind.

I’ll cover the other threats in due course.

Section Six: Insider Threat

In this country, this is currently unlikely to be violent on a mass scale, but things change all the time in this arena … perhaps the most helpful thing any outsider can do, as mentioned previously, is to report any suspicious activity. That culture of “reporting difference” leads to its own problems, which is a discussion preppers and civilised human beings need to have.

Section Seven: Cyber Threat

We are the customers whose details are stolen if any company we use has their client list stolen – so it makes sense to be as careful as you can with things like passwords, clicking links and maintaining your privacy about your details as much as you can. You might also usefully check what the policy is of any company with which you have strong links. Books are written about this subject – I have a fair few draft posts about it myself, but there’s nothing in this document that’s particularly relevant to individuals in the here and now.

Section Eight: Further Information

The links here are all meant for businesses, but if you live, work or visit in an area that’s particularly vulnerable, you might want to cast your eye over some more information.

 

So, that’s it for now. The events in Paris signalled the start of a terrible week for decent human beings all over the world.  By spreading information about how to keep ourselves that bit safer, I hope I’m helping just a tiny bit in the fightback.  You can spread it too.

Anti-Terrorist Hotline, Metropolitan Police 0800 789 321

Anti-Terrorist Hotline, MI5 0800 111 4645

Ponds – front garden and otherwise!

The more I read about ponds, the more I think that they’re a really good use of otherwise wasted space in the front of the house: done well, they’ll look merely ornamental, but actually be extremely useful. And that’s just for the plants, let alone the possibility of breeding your own fish (to be eaten!). PFAF has a good general article about edible water and bog gardens.

Of the useful cropping plants in ponds, duckweed springs to mind first of all: it’s very common and in large ponds it can be difficult to keep under control, so regular cropping would be excellent news all round. It can be used as a survival food, but it has a lot of uses in the garden as well, as a green manure, a mulch and food for animals and fish.  For a brilliant site about it’s many uses, you can’t do better than go here.  The scientist who runs this site, Tamra Fakhoorian, is also what we’d call a smallholder or part-time farmer maybe, in Kentucky, her breadth of knowledge is inspiring.  As an example of what can be done, here’s a large pond local to me adapted for angling, with a healthy crop of duckweed too:

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Water cress is also a brilliant crop, and is already used for humans, of course.  Water chestnut too.   Source the plants from a reputable nursery, and off you go.

Plants that provide cover and food for small animals are a good idea too – frogs will eat slugs and other garden pests, for instance. Plant pickerelweed and wild rice (the seeds are edible for humans too) as well as hornwort and elodea to help them. Hornwort can be eaten by humans, and elodea is said to be an emetic (causes vomiting) – so do your homework about exactly what plants you want!

If you have any sort of pond at all, you’ll need a sloping edge to at least part of your pond, so that those valuable, pest-reducing little insects and animals can get out of your pond, if they fall in.  This one is ideal, and the ducks think so too:

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There are all sorts of opportunities going begging: the picture below shows a few of them.   The drainage pipe that feeds it has become blocked, the water is stagnant, a tree has grown up inside the pond itself.  The structural elements surrounding it (and this is indeed somebody’s front garden) are obviously well maintained, but the pond element itself has been abandoned.  Very sad.

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One word of warning, especially if you also go foraging for any of these plants – liver flukes are a real danger, being picked up from contaminated water, undercooked fish or raw plant material from infected sites. Care should always be taken on matters of hygiene, of course, but common sense will help you here: the fluke life cycle is complex, needing both snails and fishes before it can infect mammals. E. coli can be found in waterplants too, occasionally.

What about breeding your own fish? Carp are a genuine possibility in the UK, with a firm headquartered in Scotland breeding them in Devon, for aquaponics systems. There are quite a few fish farms breeding carp for fisheries – some local investigation will help you find one nearer.  The British Aquaponics Association is listed below.

The North American preference is tilapia, again for aquaponics systems – not really the sort of pond for the front garden, but certainly something to think about for the back garden, as a less obtrusive option. Whatever you do, if you have livestock of any description, fish included, a lot of research and commitment is necessary, to avoid unnecessary suffering and to safely maximise production.

Childproofing

Water features need childproofing – especially in the front gaden. Exuberant passers-by under the age of criminal responsibility may trespass. They shouldn’t, but they do – and you may have children of your own, or visitors with children.

Basically, RoSPA, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, recommends best practice of “a rigid mesh or grille” able to support the weight of a child up to age 4 – 5, and remain above the water at all times. That age cut-off is because it’s only then that children are aware of what warnings about danger might mean. If such strong mesh is impossible for your pond for some reason, mesh that’s strong enough to support a two year old toddler is a basic preventative measure.

If you’re growing crops in a water feature that’s only three inches deep or something similar, then that’s probably overkill – but bear in mind that something that shallow is going to freeze during most winters in the UK, and that’s going to be useless for fish, unless …. Tamra at Duckweed Gardening has some great ideas about transplanting crops into indoor containers – her weather issues in Kentucky are pretty different from ours in the UK, of course, but they can be adapted to our needs. Transplanting fish, however, is a tricky situation, and not something that I’d contemplate.

Conclusion

So there we are. I hope I’ve covinced you that front gardens can have their uses. It can be a little tricky, but there are plenty of different ways to use them for prepping, as well as enjoyment.  Here’s one to enjoy, taken at a village pond near to me:

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Further Reading

The British Aquaponic Association – their newsletter, and last year’s conference presentations, can be downloaded.

Permaculture has a deep interest in ponds, of course, and this is some of the advice and research they have available.

PFAF is an encyclopaedic site full of detailed information about all sorts of plants worldwide. In my opinion, it gathers rather than assesses information, but it can’t be bettered as a pointer to what you need to look out for.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents. For a prepping blog, why not? They have useful information.

A private American site, already quoted in the post above, with really valuable information on duckweed for many uses and links to much of the scientific literature about it.