The Swiss Times - Swiss News in English

‘Population will rebel’ Swiss police chief says of looming energy crisis

  • By Paige Baschuk
  • 23 August 2022

While most of Switzerland is focused on a heating crisis this winter, one police chief says potential blackouts could compromise security – leaving residences, hospitals and financial institutions vulnerable to those who will take advantage of the situation.

‘Population will rebel’ Swiss police chief says of looming energy crisis

Zürich and other Swiss cities may have to “go dark” at night to conserve energy usage.

The Swiss should prepare for a dark winter – one that may include blackouts, financial uncertainty and even “looting” in the streets – the Police Chief of St. Gallen, Fredy Fässler told local newspaper Blick this week.

The Swiss government will likely place energy restrictions on businesses and homes. Citizens are recommended to stock up on food, gas cookers, firewood and candles in preparation, said Werner Luginbuhl, the head of Switzerland’s electricity regulator ElCom.

But all the candles in Europe will not safeguard Swiss citizens from some of the potential, chilling side effects of energy outages; for instance, “internal security may become a problem,” says Jan Flückiger, Secretary General of the Energy Directors’ Conference.

‘Population will rebel’ Swiss police chief says of looming energy crisis

Famous Swiss mountains, such as the Matterhorn, that are usually lit at night for tourists will likely have to “go dark” this winter.

A winter of unrest

“Imagine, you can no longer withdraw money at the ATM, you can no longer pay with the card in the store or refuel your tank at the gas station. Heating stops working. It’s cold. Streets go dark. It is conceivable that the population would rebel or that there would be looting,” said Police Chief Fässler, painting a dark picture of the months to come.

Fässler says that in 2014 the Swiss government began conducting exercises to explore how well prepared the nation was for blackouts. The results were frightening. Switzerland lacked enough generators for police, hospitals and other critical infrastructure, he said.

“Most of these shortcomings have been corrected in recent years,” the police chief said, adding that now “the security forces are armed” and his police force is even prepared to provide the Swiss with cash if they are unable to buy food, under agreements with local banks.

Still, it may not be enough.

“I don’t want to paint the devil on the wall, but it has also been seen in environmental disasters that certain people have abused the situation to plunder unprotected objects. This could also be the case if the network is switched off, for example in shops where there is something to buy.”

‘Population will rebel’ Swiss police chief says of looming energy crisis

The federal government must prepare for possible side effects of blackouts, Fässler says.

What is to be done?

Fässler said that despite the urgency, the federal government should not be overly zealous or tyrannical in preparation.

“I appeal to the federal government to only order measures that can be implemented and, above all, controlled…I hope for solidarity and common sense,” Fässler added.

Despite fears, Fässler says residents should resist the urge to run out and buy weapons right now.

“Confronting a burglar with a gun can be dangerous. Fortunately, we have no indication that the cantonal police are overly busy with gun permits. So, I say: Better get yourself waffles than guns,” Fässler said.

This article may be freely shared and re-printed, provided that it prominently links back to the original article.

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