What should foreigners in Sweden think about when preparing for a war or crisis?

Becky Waterton
Becky Waterton - [email protected]
What should foreigners in Sweden think about when preparing for a war or crisis?
Authorities recommend that everyone has enough food at home to survive for 1-2 weeks. But what should foreigners bear in mind when preparing for a war or crisis? Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

This week, Sweden's government ordered the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB) to come up with a new version of the famous booklet "If Crisis or War Comes". What should foreigners in particular bear in mind in preparing for a crisis?


In 2018, MSB issued a brochure to all Swedish households, titled Om krisen eller kriget kommer. There’s a version in English, If Crisis or War Comes, available here.

Even if you don’t think a war is likely in Sweden, making sure you’re prepared if there’s a power outage or if the water supply is cut off will also protect you in the case of other emergencies, like forest fires or floods. Being able to handle things on your own for at least a few days also reduces the pressure on emergency services and assistance, leaving them more able to help others.

The general advice from Swedish authorities is always to have enough supplies at home to see your household through one to two weeks if needed. You may have put together a box of groceries with a long shelf life during the Covid-19 pandemic, when people in Sweden were also asked to plan ahead. If that’s the case, check the use-by date of these items - many may still be perfectly edible, but if you’re worried it might be worth buying replacements and swapping them out. There’s a helpful checklist in MSB’s booklet which you can use.

You’ll need to prepare things like food, water, heat and communications whether you’re an immigrant or not, but there are some extra things it’s important for immigrants to bear in mind, too.



MSB’s booklet recommends that you have some cash in small denominations in your emergency prep box, as credit or debit cards, along with cash machines, may stop working.

If you usually keep your money in a foreign bank account, bear in mind that even if cash machines and cards are still working, you might not be able to make transactions or transfers in the case of a crisis.

Paper copies of important documents

MSB also recommends printing out important documents like insurance policies and bank details, but for immigrants it’s a good idea to make copies of things like work contracts, letters from the Migration Agency and any other documents that prove you have the right to live in Sweden.


Will you stay in Sweden or move back home?

It’s worth discussing with friends and family what you would do in the event of an attack. Would you stay and fight for Sweden? If you have children, would one parent stay while the other one leaves, taking the children to safety? Do you have medical issues or need regular treatment which could put you in danger in the case of disruption to infrastructure? Make sure to have these difficult conversations so you’re prepared if you end up having to make these decisions.

If you do decide that you’ll move back home, think about how you would get there if you weren’t able to fly. Do you have access to a car, or could you get access to one if needed? Which route would you take to leave Sweden? Would it be easy for you to find your way without internet access? Thinking about these things now may feel silly, but it means you can act faster if you ever find yourself in an emergency situation.

Plan for how you will contact family

Keeping a list of important telephone numbers is also a good idea, but bear in mind that you may not be able to contact family abroad if internet networks go down. If you usually contact your family back home using internet-based services like email or Facebook Messenger, make sure they have your Swedish phone number too, so they can contact you if the telephone network is the only option.


If you live by yourself and don’t have any friends or family nearby, try reaching out to neighbours or colleagues nearby who you would be able to contact if a crisis occurs, especially if they also live alone. Maybe you could agree to check in with each other or agree to share or borrow items from each other if you need to?

Help other people in your network to stay informed

If you speak Swedish but have friends or family in Sweden who don’t, offer your assistance in translating important information from the authorities so you’re sure they know what to do in an emergency. Official information may only be shared in Swedish, so it’s a good idea to make sure that you and other people in your network have a way of finding out what’s going on if you don’t have access to the internet.

This could be as simple as sending them a link to MSB’s English-language leaflet (it’s also available in other languages), or making sure they know where their nearest bomb shelter is. Again, make sure they have some way of contacting you so you can keep in touch with them if a crisis does break out.

If you don’t speak Swedish, it might be worth including a dictionary or set of phrases in your emergency preparedness kit, so you can still translate important information if you have no access to online resources.

It's also worth reading up on Sweden's VMA system - those alarms that are tested four times a year which sound a bit like air raid sirens - so you understand what the different signals mean.


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Anonymous 2024/01/12 16:04
I would 100% fight for Sweden. This country has given me everything when my "home" country had given me nothing. I owe my life to Sweden and the Swedish people.
Souad Al Hebshi 2024/01/10 17:45
Been a migrant and then Swedish Citizen I appreciated and I will always be appreciative of the role of The Local on making me aware of the local issue, political dynamics and simple topics that enhanced my knowledge and the understanding of the society that live and I belong too now. The information is simple, handy and focused, which make perfect for a person like me who are drowning in work and family responsibilities. Thank you!

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