The Cumbrian Scene

Community Adviser LogoFollowing a Community Adviser instruction by National Government entitled: 'Major Problems of Survival and Recovery, a local document followed, tailored to the requirements of the county of Cumbria.

A verbatim reproduction of this document: 'Major problems of Survival and Recovery' is reproduced below. It was issued in January 1984 by Eden District Council, in East Cumbria.



Against the background of the national picture, an objective assessment of our chances of survival in Cumbria must surely indicate that they are better than average. This is not only because there are very few - if any - targets of major strategic importance in the County, but because to bring rural communities within the destructive range of the initial effects of a strike - heat, blast and immediate radiation - would demand the deployment of almost one nuclear warhead per family in the less dense areas of population. It is clear, therefore, that the most serious threat to our initial survival in Cumbria is that posed by residual radiation; and we already know that if we think and plan ahead, we can ensure adequate protection against fallout.

However, the major problems of recovery in the aftermath of a nuclear strike will apply equally as well to Cumbria as they do to other rural areas in the United Kingdom. In essence, these are:

a. Partial or total loss of control by Central and delegated seats of government.

b. A major influx of refugees from the conurbations to the South and East of the County.

c. A breakdown of communication and communications.

d. The loss of power supplies and other essential public services.

e. Numerous deaths, sickness, and disease - possibly of epidemic proportions.

f. Inadequate food and contaminated water supplies.

g. Violence engendered by fear, hunger, pain and desperation, creating serious problems of law and order.

As you know, Central Government will continue to function from its normal location for as long as possible: and, in the event of a breakdown in central control and communications, a system of decentralised government has been devised. However, in the worst circumstances one can envisage, any or all of these various levels of control may be unable to function effectively. This means that the comparatively greater resources which District or County - and, circumstances permitting, Sub Region or Region -can offer will not be available; and communities, particularly those in the more isolated rural areas, will have to be self sufficient for some time. This may dictate the need for the establishment of an organisation at Community level to deal with major problems for several days or even weeks. In this context, it is absolutely essential that such an organisation should operate within the broad guidelines of appropriate County/District plans to facilitate an orderly recovery throughout the District and County as soon as possible.

The other major problems of recovery will be dealt with separately, and in some detail, during later sessions, but the problem of refugees is all pervasive, and demands some mention in this general background paper. This really is, potentially, one of our biggest headaches. The official policy leaves us in no doubt that the Government will expect the public to stay put, and argues that the chances of surviving a nuclear strike are greatly increased by even the partial protection afforded by modern buildings against heat and radiation. These arrangements may well be valid if applied to areas outside those areas of certain death, but no one can predict with any accuracy human behaviour in an emergency.

It is not unreasonable to assume that, given sufficient warning, those living in or near to what they believe to be likely target areas will attempt to seek refuge in other parts of the Country. In fact, Norway recognises this possibility to the extent of preparing contingency plans for the mass evacuation or the civilian population from the vicinity of military bases and other prime target areas. But, if we believe that a steady movement of refugees -controlled or not - from the major conurbations during the pre-strike period of tension will pose many oroblems, imagine what it would be like if the exodus were engendered by sheer panic in the immediate post strike period.

This is how General Sir John Hackett describes a likely post strike scene in his imaginative book "The Third World War". "The movement of survivors out of the area, by vehicle or on foot, soon began to clog the remaining passable roads, and severely hampered the emergency services. Further police effort was required to control this. The police manpower available for this task, and also for the protection of the hospitals, even with the help of reserve army units, was simply insufficient. Chaos began to develop on the roads, chiefly near hospitals and in areas which had suffered less damage than others, and where people came to find food and shelter. As the night wore on, the absence of electricity made matters worse, so that the day ended in a shambles of uncoordinated activity by fire-fighting and rescue teams doing what they could against the mountain of disaster facing them? in an environment where hundreds of thousands of people were seeking food and shelter and attention for severe injuries. The extent of the disaster and its aftermath was such that the local authorities were quite unable to control events".

Of course, the responsibility for dealing with refugee, both on the move and encamped, must be borne to a large extent, by our forces of law and order. It would not be prudent to suggest how these forces will exercise their responsibilities; or to conjecture whether sweet reason will prevail or if - as General Hackett suggests -armed force may have to be used in certain circumstances to contain and control the problem.

In any event, there can be no doubt that Cumbria will receive its fair share of refugees; and, even if our limited police forces can control their entry and route them into reception areas, they will undoubtedly exacerbate local problems. We must either accept that once in the county, they become our responsibility for food, shelter, medical care etc; or we must refuse to prejudice the well being and survival of our indigenous population and run the risk of the refugees turning into marauding bands with the resultant breakdown in law and order. It is unlikely to be either a simple or easy choice.

Our confidence in man's will to live allows us to share the feeling that the country would rebuild. It would be a slow and tortuous job, much complicated by tremendous problems, many of which may have to be resolved in the first instance at the very grass roots of our new nation - in our small surviving communities wherever these may be found in the aftermath of a nuclear holocaust.

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