Germany is urging its people to stockpile food, water, and cash in case of a national emergency

Just in case.
Just in case.
Image: Reuters/Fabrizio Bensch
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In English, stashing away food for times of need is “squirreling.” In German, it’s “hamstern.” Hamster pictures, tweets, and jokes are everywhere in Germany this week, since the Frankfurter Allegemeine Zeitung (link in German) revealed that the government is asking citizens to stockpile food and water in case of a national emergency.

It’s the first major update to the country’s civil defense policy since the Cold War, and a paper about the new “concept” will be presented to parliament by interior minister Thomas de Maiziere today (Aug. 24). While the document says that “an attack on German territory, requiring conventional defense of the nation, is unlikely,” it adds that it can’t rule out a major security threat that would make it so emergency services couldn’t reach people quickly.

The paper calls upon individuals to put aside enough food for 10 days and enough water for five, based on a two-liter allowance per person per day. It also recommends that people keep sufficient cash reserves, medicines, blankets, and energy supplies in their homes.  

Many see a clear link between the new guidelines and the series of deadly attacks that have unsettled Germany in recent weeks, but according to interior ministry speaker Johannes Dimroth, the guidelines were last amended in 1995 and were long overdue a comprehensive overhaul. He said that many of the recommendations are nothing new—the Federal Office for Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance has been offering the same tips for a long time.

Politicians from the Green and Left parties slammed the new recommendations as scaremongering, saying that asking people to stockpile emergency supplies will make them feel insecure. “The government could completely worry people and even lead them to panic buy,” Dietmar Bartsch, co-leader of the Left party said.

People don’t seem to be too insecure about it—Twitter has been abuzz, with the hashtags #hamsterkäufe (panic buying) and #hamsterwitze (hamster jokes) trending high. Some wondered if 10 cases of beer could substitute for the recommended water rations, while others posted pictures of their bathtubs filled with water and cars stuffed with bananas.

“The federal government recommends #panicbuying. First stop: Greengrocer. Lasts for 10 days.” 

“The new civil defense concept: Germans should store enough body fat for 10 days.”

As with any trending topic, brands soon got in on the action, too. Here, Netflix suggests a “basic supply” of video content to last for 14 days of isolation.

Newspaper headline-writers also poked fun at the new recommendations, with the Tageszeitung front page proclaiming “The End is Nigh” alongside, naturally, an anxious hamster.