Wandsworth and Richmond councils spark fear after tweeting details about what to take when fleeing your home in an emergency

By Sian Bayley, Local Democracy Reporter

Two councils in South-west London sparked fear and confusion on Twitter yesterday after sharing details about how to prepare an emergency grab-and-go-bag.

The tweets, sent by Wandsworth and Richmond councils, said grab bags were “full of emergency items in case you need to flee your home immediately without time to pack”.

They suggested packing items such as a first aid kit, a torch, food and water, and an emergency plan.

The councils, which share a staffing service, wrote the tweets as part of a month-long campaign to help people know what they need to leave in emergencies, such as domestic violence or flooding.

Other councils and public bodies have also tweeted about the campaign.

But many Twitter users presumed the tweets were something to do with coronavirus or an imminent disaster, with a number of people replying to the Wandsworth account in particular.

More than 1,400 tweets from users asked questions such as “What is this? Are we actually heading to an end-of-times scenario?” and “How bad are things getting in Wandsworth?”

Another added: “Great idea but perhaps could have considered the anxiety this could cause some. Could have been worded a bit better.”

Wandsworth council’s Twitter account replied: “Agreed. We’re sorry to have caused alarm.”

Tooting MP Rosena Allin-Khan said: “In fairness to the council it’s part of Preparedness Month, but without any context it seems like a zombie apocalypse is imminent.

“Think less ‘prepare for a zombie apocalypse’ and more ‘have you topped up your first aid kit recently?’”

Richmond council seemed to get off lighter, with fewer retweets, perhaps due to its jokey addition of the phrase: “please don’t just pack gin”.

Wandsworth council quickly added a tweet explaining: “Don’t worry, we’re not trying to scare you. This is part of our contribution to the #30days30waysUK campaign – a month-long national campaign.”

A spokeswoman for Wandsworth council said: “This is part of an annual national campaign, supported by many public bodies up and down the country, including councils, the NHS, police and fire services, and is aimed primarily at those in vulnerable situations who may need to leave their homes at a moment’s notice.

“This includes people living in a flood risk area, victims of domestic violence or those who may be affected by a gas leak or a power cut. This national campaign simply urges people to be prepared for sudden emergencies.”

Pictured top: Wandsworth Town Hall


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