Big Ben

What to do if a disaster hits London

London is not near any active volcanoes, on any major fault lines, or close to any current war zones, but nonetheless, it has its vulnerabilities. If disaster did strike, what form might it take, and how would it be likely to develop? What could the city’s residents do to protect themselves?


Close to the sea and low-lying, London is vulnerable to flooding and faces increasing risks as sea levels rise, but it also faces a more dramatic risk. There are a number of geological features around the Atlantic that will one day crumble into the water with significant force. There’s also the possibility that a meteor will hit the ocean. In either of these eventualities, London could be hit by a tsunami. There would most likely be some warning, so the best option would be to flee inland – on foot if possible, as roads would quickly become jammed and trains would fill up. If that were not possible, the tallest buildings may offer some refuge but could leave people stranded for days afterwards.


The recent panic over Ebola was somewhat misplaced as ordinary good hygiene can keep this disease at bay in a city with good modern facilities. Dangerous variants of flu, however, pose a much bigger hazard, and antibiotic resistance could see the sudden return of bacterial diseases that are highly infectious. In the event of a plague like this, the best course of action is self-quarantine – simply staying at home and interacting with people outside the household as little as possible, using a suitable mask to shield the mouth and nose if forced to do so.

Terrorist attack

Since the recent shootings in Paris, London has been on high alert. In the event of gunfire or bombing, the best thing to do is to clear the area as quickly as possible and take shelter. High-profile locations are likely to be risky, and public transport should be avoided until an all-clear is given. Mobile phone use should be kept to a minimum so that the people with immediate emergency calls to make can get through. Social media is the best place to pass on important news as it can then be shared by others outside the affected area.

Being prepared

Simple things such as having at least two weeks’ worth of dried or tinned food at home can make a big difference to survival chances if disaster strikes. Black Umbrella is a useful company that sells all kinds of other supplies to help people prepare for potential problems. It is run by Catherine Hooper and carries everything from torches and gaffer tape to thermal clothing and Geiger counters. They may not all be things that are needed every day, but if the need should arise, they could be lifesavers. Hooper herself saw how a disaster can uproot your life, after witnessing her friends suffer the disaster of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. To find out more about Black Umbrella take a look at the “Stand by your Madoff” interview featuring Hooper.


Overall, the most important disaster advice is to not panic. In real life, unlike in disaster movies, this is something most people manage quite well. Mental as well as practical preparation can help because, ultimately, there is nothing more important than clear thinking.




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