Herald columnist Keith Rossiter: Plymouth woefully unprepared for zombie apocalypse
WELL we survived the Mayan Armageddon, so now we can get back to worrying about a Zombie Apocalypse.
The prospect of being a meal for Zombies was clearly worrying Alex Chambers.
In a letter to Plymouth City Council at the beginning of this month Alex said: “I am writing to you to request your Plan of Action for the Zombie Apocalypse.”
The delightfully named Kimberly Spry, assistant human resources adviser, replied primly that “...the information you requested is not held by Plymouth City Council”.
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It turns out that Alex is not alone in asking about an invasion of the Undead. All around the country people have been using the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act to ask their local council about Zombies, mostly with similarly negative results.
Now (The Telegraph reports) the Ministry of Defence has said – in response to yet another FoI request – that Civil Servants would control the fight-back.
The Cabinet Office would be responsible for co-ordinating the military’s efforts to “return England to its pre-attack glory” after an invasion by an army of the Undead.
In the United States you don’t need FoI to find the contingency plans for a Zombie attack.
The Centers for Disease control in Atlanta devotes part of its serious-minded website to dealing with Zombies (www.cdc.gov/phpr/zombies.htm).
A little less po-faced than we Brits, they see it as a fun way of highlighting what you need to do to survive more mundane disasters like hurricanes, tornadoes or (as I briefly thought I heard on the radio yesterday, Lizards (OK, blizzards).
THE Freedom of Information Act, introduced in full in 2005, has limitations, based mainly on security, privacy, cost and commercial sensitivity.
There are fears that frivolous uses could give politicians an excuse to scale back the powers even further.
Some people might wonder whether Jack Webb’s request falls into the frivolous category. He asked: “Dear Plymouth City Council, how many people in Plymouth have the name of Shaun Howells?”
If you can shed any light on why Jack Webb might care about an invasion of Shaun Howells, I’d be glad to hear, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Back on the paranoia theme, Josh Lillie asked: “Dear Plymouth City Council, do you have a plan for if Aliens invade us?”
No, said the patient Kimberley Spry, “the information you requested is not held by Plymouth City Council”.
These were a handful of the hundreds of (mostly serious) questions that have been posed to public organisations.
Chris Watchman wanted to know how many potholes there are in Plymouth. Even The Herald’s own Pothole Pete was surprised by the answer. Between April and September this year Plymouth Transport and Highways repaired 1,872 potholes in roads and 1,243 in pavements and paths, not including those filled during re-surfacing work.
Mr Watchman also, and bizarrely, wanted to know how much cheese Plymouth High School for Girls uses in a year. He’s still waiting for the answer.
THIS might seem a curmudgeonly complaint.
On Christmas Eve my nephew followed the Santa Tracker run by Norad, the North American Aerospace Defense Command.
For the past 57 years volunteers at the Colorado Springs Peterson Air Force Base in military uniform and Santa hats have answered calls from children in hundreds of countries.
Their official website even contains webcam footage of sites around the world purporting to show Santa’s sleigh hurtling through the skies.
This year, it said, 7,060,919,100 gifts were delivered around the globe. The idea that every human being on the planet would get a gift from Santa gives our children a dangerously complacent view of the world.
Hundreds of millions of people didn’t even get a square meal on Christmas Day, never mind an exciting elf-made present.
You might say it’s just a bit of fun and that I’m being boring.
All the same, I don’t find it amusing that 870 million people don’t have enough to eat, and that undernutrition contributes to five million deaths of children under five each year in developing countries.
Meanwhile, it has been reported that the value of unwanted gifts in Britain alone this year would top £2billion.
So you can kill two partridges in a pear tree with one stone by giving what you don’t want to a charity shop instead of stuffing it in the back of the wardrobe. And I expect the Plymouth Foodbank would not turn away a box of unwanted chocolates.
Happy New Year.
THIS year Plymouth City Council introduced webcasting of its main meetings. The broadcasts can be watched live, and are archived on the council’s website, www.plymouth.gov.uk.
Unfortunately, the webcast of the full city council meeting on December 3 has been censored. This may be for very good legal reasons, but we have no way of knowing. There is no admission on the website that the cut has been made.
This is not open government – it’s carelessly deceitful. I’ll go on saying this until it’s put right.