Quick release tourniquet? Check. Water purification system? Check. One-hundred emergency food rations? Check.
These are just some of the more extreme orders placed at one of the UK’s leading “emergency preparedness” suppliers, EVAQ8, where you can buy what you you need to preempt anything from a power outage to the collapse of civilisation.
As the country hurtles towards Brexit, featuring consistent warnings of a possible shortage of medicines and blood, and even cheese, the company’s sales are a good indication of how worried people are about the their future after March 2019, when the UK will officially leave the European Union.
And over the last few weeks, the mood music to the exit negotiations has become more alarmist. On July 23 it was reported that the head of AmazonUK, Doug Gurr, had warned the Brexit secretary, Dominic Raab, that Britain could face “civil unrest” in the event of a no-deal Brexit – and EVAQ8 sales went up by 52%.
A day later, and after weeks of speculation, Raab confirmed the government was planning to stockpile food in the event of a no-deal – and accordingly, EVAQ8 sales went up 103%.
“We definitely had at least double the amount of normal orders, and a lot of them were stockpiling food,” says Zaid Al-Mufti, the company’s sales director.
Thanks to the popularity of American shows such as “Doomsday Preppers”, featuring gun-toting and rather paranoid survivalists, “preppers” as they’re known have gained notoriety, but they’re not all preparing for the end of the world. As in most things, the British survivalists are a bit more... restrained.
Steve Smith is a 46-year-old who lives in London and works as an IT security consultant. “We’re not prepping for some kind of disaster, we’re just increasing our resilience,” he says.
“It’s about how you can cope in an emergency, power cuts, flooding, how flexible you are and how you get through it without resorting to government help which might not be there.”
He said modern life has left people unaccustomed to people “things not working”. Smith helps run a Facebook page called 48% Preppers, an offshoot of the hugely popular Remain voter page, The 48% – the number who voted to remain in the EU in the 2016 referendum.
It offers advice on how to prepare for the worst come 29 March 2019, the day the UK will officially leave the EU. It makes a point of not discussing “weapons or violence” or “how to fight the government after No Deal Brexit”.
Instead it’s filled with gardening tips, how to store water and which foods are best to keep long-term.
The Government has said very little about what could happen in a “no deal” scenario, but one leading food industry boss recently said Brexit is becoming “the stuff of nightmares”. A Food and Drink Federation report released this week suggested the port of Dover could grind to a halt because of tariffs and checks on imports.
This could have a domino effect on the supply chain and the shelf-life of perishable foods in the event of increased waiting times, the report claimed.
Smith says he anticipates the UK’s post-Brexit society will “settle down to something like 1908s Poland, or Britain after the war, so we’ll have an initial shock with possibly a lack of food and petrol due to panic buying.
“After that it’ll probably settle into a situation where there’s not much food in the shops but nobody’s starving.”
To mitigate this possibility Smith has bought around 100 tins of food and a water barrel. Although his preparations might sound overly cautious, it’s actually in line with government recommendations that have been in place long before Brexit was on the cards.
“Go in, stay in and tune in” is the standard guidance issued by the Government in 2004 which we’re all supposed to follow in cases of emergency such as flooding or power outage. Part of this is to have an “emergency grab bag” that will keep you going for three days.
Why three days? Well in the event of a national power outage (which isn’t as far-fetched as it might sound) it would take this long for the network to come back online. Only a small number of power plants can restart using diesel generators without the aid of grid power.
For some in the UK, necessity means prepping is already a way of life. Howard Hardiman lives on Sanday, one of the North isles of Orkney, the outer limits of the UK food supply.
A recent thread he penned on prepping and the potential effects of Brexit blew up on Twitter gaining thousands of retweets and comments describing it as “terrifying” but Hardiman is keen to play down the impression that it was “a doomsday thing”.
He told HuffPost UK: “A remote place like this has an inbuilt resilience anyway. Could we be self-sufficient? Yes we could because that’s within living memory.
“My worry is more for people in cities than people here. There won’t be protests on the streets here because we don’t have any streets.”
Al-Mufti says: “There’s definitely a stigma attached to prepping but it’s always good to have a plan B. I don’t think there’s going to be civil unrest because of Brexit, that can be sparked any day as we saw with the riots a few years ago.
“If getting prepared is such a small thing then why not just do it?”