Spoof emergency site stays up despite government letter

LONDON - The government has written to a student who has created a website spoofing its official site, which offers advice on what to do in the event of a terrorist attack, asking him to take it down because it is concerned that it may confuse people.

The site is called preparingforemergencies.co.uk, which the government failed to register, and is very close to the official website, preparingforemergencies.gov.uk, which launched at the beginning of this week.

On the spoof site, purportedly issued by the Department of Vague Paranoia, there is helpful advice is given such as "Check for injuries. Here's a hint: if it's painful, it's probably injured. However, hurting when you pee is probably not an injury related to the incident. But get yourself checked out anyway".

The site also tells people that if they find themselves in the middle of an emergency, it is important to "Run", and if that fails, to run "Really, really fast".

The site's creator, 19-year-old Thomas Scott, received a letter from the government within 12 hours of his site going live. In it, an unnamed official writes: "In the interests of helping people to cope in the event of a crisis or a disaster, we would ask that you to take down the site, immediately, and not put it up again in another guise".

Scott has said that, barring a visit to his house from the secret service, he has no intention of removing the site. However, in a concession to the government he has provided a link to the real site and even included the line "this is a parody" for anyone who may believe that the Department of Vague Paranoia actually exists.

The government's website is part of an £8m campaign to help people prepare for emergencies, including a terrorist attack. The information contained in the site is also being published in a booklet that will be distributed to households across the UK. A television ad campaign, created by WCRS, is alerting people to the booklet and reassuring them that there is no need to be alarmed by its distribution.

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