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UK: Stock up in case of attack

Blears: Be prepared with water, medicines and tinned food
London Heathrow Airport
Acts of terror
Great Britain

LONDON, England (CNN) -- A UK government minister has told Britons they should be stocking up on emergency supplies such as tinned food, bottled water and medicines in case of an attack by al Qaeda.

Minister for counterterrorism Hazel Blears stressed that an attack was not inevitable and that people should not "live in fear" -- but warned it is best to be prepared.

"You should have all the telephone numbers you need," she said in an interview in the Daily Telegraph. "You should know what is going on in children's schools.

"Most people would be sensible about water and making sure they have some tinned food. If they take medication, they would need to know where that was. A lot of it is common sense."

She said: "People will judge us on the basis of, did we do everything we could? They will know we can do everything possible and (an attack) may well still happen. But they will not forgive us if we spent our time floundering because it was all too scary."

Blears, a local government lawyer before becoming an MP, said the UK government would issue guidance probably through leaflets and Web sites on what to do if there is an attack and explain action being taken to combat terrorism.

She added that the terror threat was "serious, real and credible" and would be with Britain in the long term. However, she said she did not agree with an assertion by Metropolitan Police Commissioner John Stevens that an attack on British soil was "inevitable."

The Home Office issued similar advice to residents on how to prepare for a terror attack in Britain in the run-up to the war in Iraq last year.

Meanwhile Monday, Scotland Yard said it had launched an inquiry into how a secret police dossier went missing which, according to The Sun tabloid, contained counterterrorist plans for London's Heathrow airport. (Full story)

The dossier, found lying in a road, showed 62 sites at the airport where al Qaeda was most likely to launch anti-aircraft missile strikes, the newspaper said.

The paper said the dossier included facts about surveillance, escape routes, evacuation plans and deployment of rooftop snipers at the world's busiest international hub.

Response times in the weekend exercise in Britain were criticized.

The plans, which have since been returned to police, were found by a motorist, the newspaper said.

On Sunday in Britain 400 volunteers took part in a mock chemical attack in Birmingham.

It took more than four hours to treat the "casualties" and there was widespread criticism the response was too slow. (Full story)

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