Stockpile tortillas and wet wipes if crisis comes, Sweden suggests

STOCKHOLM • It is not that Sweden's government is nervous.

Officials just want the 4.8 million Swedish households to be prepared for rising seas, cyber sabotage, fake news, terrorist attacks, food shortages or even war with a certain big neighbour to the east.

"What would you do if your everyday life was turned upside down?" reads the introduction to an emergency handbook from the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB) titled If Crisis Or War Comes.

The newly revised handbook, in Swedish and English, was posted on the agency's website on Monday. It is the first significant update of the handbook since the midst of the Cold War a half-century ago, and reflects an evolving diversity of threats that include flooding from climate change and the vulnerabilities of the Internet and social media to hackers and malcontents.

"Although Sweden is safer than many other countries, there are still threats to our security and independence," the handbook asserts, without identifying precisely which other countries or groups harbour hostile intentions.

But Sweden and other Scandinavian countries have expressed increased concern about what they view as provocative actions by Russia, particularly since Moscow annexed the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine four years ago.

The last time Swedes got this kind of practical tips from their government on how to cope if war comes to their country was in 1961, when officials distributed a handbook titled In Case Of War.

Back then the focus was on how to react if Sweden were invaded, said Ms Christina Andersson, the MSB official who produced the revised handbook.

Ms Andersson said the handbook emphasised protection from peacetime disasters like those linked to climate change and failures in information technology.

"It is much more likely that we have a storm, or flooding, or an IT attack, than that we have a military attack," she said. For anyone who "really wants Sweden to come to a standstill", information technology is a vulnerable area.

The handbook also offers lists of emergency prerequisites. On food, for example, it recommends stocking up on tortillas, spreadable cheese, instant mashed potatoes, precooked lentils, tins of Bolognese sauce and fruit puree, among other things.

Other necessities include buckets with lids, a car radio, wet wipes and a list of important phone numbers on paper.

A special section deals with how to detect "false information", a reference to propaganda or fake news.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 23, 2018, with the headline 'Stockpile tortillas and wet wipes if crisis comes, Sweden suggests'. Print Edition | Subscribe