Winter weather can be very changeable. We can expect low temperatures, rain, high winds and snow.
When any of these are for prolonged periods, they can impact the way we go about our daily lives. It can affect those that live in our communities, particularly the vulnerable.
The following information will give you an idea on how to prepare for snow and ice. It will tell you how to deal with frosty conditions and what the council will do to help you get about. You can find more information about being weather ready on the Met Office website.
How to prepare
Make sure you listen out for weather updates on the radio and TV, visit the internet, including the Met Office website or look at newspapers. We tend to get fair warning of a likely event and its impact.
Plan for power outages by visiting the SSE Power Distribution (SSEPD) website. These are the people that maintain the power lines - no matter from whom you buy your electricity. SSEPD also offer a priority service for the elderly, infirm or people with various medical conditions. See the Sources of Help section further down.
Creating an emergency plan also helps to prepare for how you can help to support the less able members of your community.
What you can do during bad weather
In times of need the council website will provide key information on:
- school closures
- revised bin collections
- road conditions
- other snow or ice-related details
- make current information available to the local radio stations
Be a good neighbour
Check on friends and neighbours to make sure they are okay, especially those who are elderly and vulnerable. If they more help than you can give speak to our adult social care team by calling 01344 352000.
The Met Office - Getting communities ready for winter provides useful information. It helps you plan how best you can look out for, and support, your neighbours.
When there is snow you can help by quickly clearing pavements around your home. There is no law preventing members of the public from clearing snow and ice from pavements near their home. Common sense should be applied.
If you do need to drive during periods of bad weather check the forecast in advance. Plan enough time for a trip that may involve delays and dangerous driving conditions.
The Met Office provides a variety of useful tips and links about winter travel. RAC advice about driving in winter. The AA advice for seasonal driving also provide really useful tips. They all provide advice on how to prepare your vehicle for travel during winter months. They help find the safest, most suitable route to your destination.
Whatever the weather, be prepared and take action accordingly. The Met Office is a good source of information.
Advice for over 65s or those with long term health conditions
If you are over 65 or have a long term health condition you should remember to:
- keep a supply of medicines, and tinned, frozen and long-life foods so you do not need to go out if it is icy
- make a list of emergency numbers in case you need help during cold weather
- if you must go out dress warmly, wear shoes with good grip and take your mobile phone with you
- stay in contact with friends and family
You can help yourself stay well and warm by making sure you:
- eat regular hot meals and drinks throughout the day
- keep moving - try to be active at least once an hour
- wear lots of thin layers
- close doors in the rooms you use most
Protecting vulnerable residents
Anyone can be affected by severe cold weather. Some members of our communities are especially prone to cold-related illness. Severe cold weather can be dangerous, especially for the very young, very old or those with a chronic disease.
During severe winter weather, it's important to make sure vulnerable people are safe. Our adult social care team are there to support the borough's most vulnerable residents to make sure they are keeping safe and warm.
You can do your bit to keep the community safe and well during a cold snap by checking in on friends, family and neighbours.
If you are concerned about someone, contact adult social care by
- phone: 01344 351500
- email: email@example.com
If emergency help is required when the office is closed, the Out of Hours Team can be contacted on 01344 351999.
What the council does when it snows
The council's contractors will give priority to the primary road network. This helps make sure buses, emergency vehicles and food deliveries can get around.
Attention will then be given to the secondary roads within the resources available.
This way we make sure all major roads around the borough are open. Schools, shopping areas and health centres are available for use as best we can.
Please visit our gritting page for more information.
The council and its contractors will also try to avoid any delay to waste collection services. Should extreme snowfall and/or ice disrupt the service, revised collection dates will be available on the council website.
Sources of help
The NHS provides practical advice to help you or those you care for, on keeping warm and healthy in winter.
To support the elderly or people receiving certain benefits, the government offers:
You may be able to apply for a grant of up to £10,000 towards the cost of making your home more energy-efficient. For details visit Gov.uk - Green Homes Grant.
Some vulnerable people can be registered as "priority users" of some utilities. This means that the companies will take care of these people. They will prioritise recovery efforts to help them if their services are interrupted for any reason.
You can register with:
- Ofgem - Priority Services Register for People in Need
- Thames Water - priority services
- gas suppliers - contact your gas supplier (this will depend on who you pay your bills to)
Protecting your home
In the past, winter weather has caused significant disruption to our communities. In some cases it has meant people have needed to move out of their homes, because of flood damage.
Flooding isn't the only risk though - strong winds, snow and ice can also cause real problems.
Snow and ice
The biggest risk to your property could be from frozen pipes, they can expand and burst. Thames Water provides some useful information on what to do if your pipes freeze.
We grit many primary and secondary routes across our road network.
We've also produced some advice on avoiding trips and falls on icy pavements or roads and a car stopping distances reminder.
The first step to being prepared is to check whether you live in a flood risk area. If you do, it's worth considering additional protective measures to prevent your home from flooding.
You can sign up for the GOV.UK sign up for flood warnings if you live in a flood-prone area. This can help you gain early warning of any impending problems.
The PCA Flood Protection Group is a good place to start. They can put you in touch with an independent consultant who can create a flood survey of your property. This survey will provide impartial recommendations on flood resistance measures to help protect your home and belongings.
More information on ways to anticipate and deal with flood risk can be found in the 'Homeowners Guide to Flood Resilience'. You can download a copy through the 'Know Your Flood Risk' campaign website.
For information see our flooding advice page.
When high winds are forecast, everyday items left outside can become 'missiles' and cause damage and danger to people.
It's a common sight to see pictures of airborne trampolines and garden furniture caught in gales.
To avoid accidents, it's worth checking for:
- loose tiles
- lead flashing on your roof
- removing dead branches from old trees