Each year millions of people in the UK are affected by the winter conditions, whether it’s travelling through the snow or keeping yourself warm during rising energy prices.
Winter brings with it many hazards that can affect you directly or indirectly.
Severe weather is one of the most common disruptions people face during winter, be it snow, ice, or rain leading to flooding.
After reading through this guide and the attached information you should have a better understanding of what you can do to keep yourself warm, safe and informed during the winter months.
- Forecasting and Weather Warnings
- Travelling in Winter Conditions
- Warming your Home
- Staying Healthy
- Snow/Ice Clearance
- School Closures
- More Information
British weather can be very unpredictable. It’s important, especially during the winter, that you personally keep up to date with the very latest weather forecasts and warnings. This will allow you to plan your days around what the conditions may be and minimise disruption to your schedule.
For the very latest weather forecasts the best place to look is the Met Office
Other ways to keep ahead of the weather are:
- National and Local News on TV and Radio
- Networking sites such as twitter, @MetOffice
For flood information why not visit the Environment Agency flood advice page.
- Is the Journey necessary?
- Would it be easier to walk to if it's close enough?
- Keep up to date with national and local weather forecasts and traffic updates.
- Allow yourself extra time to make the journey.
- Make sure somebody knows where you are going, what route you will be taking and what time you plan on arriving at your destination.
- Carry out increased checks on your vehicle, if driving, and clear all windows and mirrors of ice and snow.
- Always have an emergency pack containing items detailed below.
- Make sure you have enough fuel to get where you want to go; it’s advised to keep your fuel tank full or close to in order to prevent ice forming inside.
- Plan routes that favour major roads that are more likely to be cleared.
- Why not add “ICE” (In-Case of Emergency) numbers to your mobile phonebook. This allows the Emergency services to contact your family in the event of something happening.
For more information and travel advice go to the Highways Agency Website or call 08700 660 115 for live traffic advice.
For information on affected services and general winter advice go to Direct-Gov.
During winter keeping your vehicle in the best condition should be your top priority. Properly maintained vehicles are less likely to break down during severe weather.
We’ve detailed some checks below however a more comprehensive list can be found on the AA website.
- Carry out the routine checks on a vehicle such as oil and fluid levels, lights, tyre tread, wipers and mirrors.
- Keep windows, lights and mirrors free of snow and ice (Don’t just scrape yourself a little porthole in the windscreen!)
- Use air conditioning to get ice and condensation off the windows to increase visibility.
- Make sure your battery is fully charged. It’s a good idea to replace batteries that are more than 5 years old.
- Make sure your license plate is clearly visible at all times. This is required by law.
Your emergency pack should be kept in your car whenever driving during the winter in case of sudden severe weather. It could include:
- Warm clothing and blanket.
- High-visibility jacket/coat.
- Plenty of water and some long life, high calorie snacks such as crisps or biscuits.
- Torch with extra batteries or hand-charged.
- Spade for longer journeys.
- Winter shoes/boots.
- First aid kit.
- Ice scraper.
- Jump leads.
- Hazard triangle.
- Extra battery for mobile phone, hand-charger or car adapter.
- Radio with extra batteries or hand-charged.
- Heat gel-pack.
- Waterproof matches.
- Simple car tool kit.
- Tow rope.
- Road maps and a compass or a GPS system.
Remember: It’s better to have all this kit in the boot of your car and not use it, rather than not have it when you need it most.
- Reduce your speed to compensate for the low visibility.
- Make sure you’re driving with the conditions in mind; stopping distance increases ten fold in icy conditions.
- Use your fog lights but remember to turn these off once visibility improves.
- Don’t just follow the break lights in front; keep an eye on the road and how it changes.
- Check your mirrors before you slow down and attempt to slow down more gradually.
- Keep an eye out for pedestrians and cyclists and give them extra room.
For more information look at the AA Website or Council’s Winter Driving Advice and read the 'Driving in adverse weather conditions' section of the Highway Code found here or alternately read the Highways Agency Leaflet.
- Keep yourself as visible as possible, brightly coloured clothes, reflective strips and high visibility jackets are recommended.
- Be mindful of people driving on the roads, they may not have as much control of their vehicle in the snow.
- Wear warm clothing.
- Carry a fully charged mobile phone at all times.
- Let somebody know where you’re going and when you’re going to be back.
- Carry a torch if needed.
- Take care when walking as icy pavements can be slippery and the fallen snow can hide trip hazards.
- Make sure your bike’s lights and breaks are fully functional and compensate for increased breaking distance in the snow.
Keeping warm during winter is vital to your health. Nowhere is this more important than in your own home where you spend most of your time. Here are some things you can do to make sure your home is toasty and warm during the cold months of winter.
- Check to see if you can get financial help to help pay your fuel bills.
- If this is not the case try shopping around for ways to decrease your bills or view advice on switching is detailed here.
- Be smart with what rooms you’re heating, don’t heat rooms you’re not going to use such as the spare bedroom.
- Make sure the rooms you do use are heated to a reasonable standard, between 18-21 degrees.
- Make sure you’re bedroom is heated in enough time before going to bed.
- At night reduce the heating in all rooms of the house except your bedroom.
- Consider investing in a time-controlled thermostat that can heat your house in the mornings just before you wake up and turn the heat down after you go to bed in order to save on your energy bills.
- Why not try a hot water bottle in bed? Never use a hot water bottle in conjunction with an electric blanket however, even when switched off.
- Use extra blankets on your bed at night and wear warm clothes around the house during the day in order to keep warm without having to set your central heating so high.
- Consider Increasing the insulation on your home; some insulation can be very cheap or even free if the right criteria are met.
- Why not check if you are eligible for central government funding here or the Sheffield City Council ‘Free Insulation Scheme’ here?
For more Information on heating your home visit Direct-Gov or download the “Keep Warm, Keep Well” Information Booklet.
Insulation can cost you to install but it can also save you on your energy bills.
For more Information on insulation and heating visit Direct-Gov.
During winter illnesses such as cold and flu and more prevalent due to people spending more time in close proximity to others in enclosed spaces. Therefore it is important that you stay healthy during the winter in order for your body to have the best chance of successfully fighting these illnesses.
Flu jabs are great ways of protecting your body from illness, these jabs can be free if you meet these criteria:
- Aged 65 or older.
- Have a serious heart, lung or kidney disease.
- Have diabetes.
- Have a weak immune system from disease or medical treatment.
- Have suffered a stroke.
- Are pregnant.
If you believe you may qualify for a free jab contact your GP. Find a GP.
- Eat at least 3 regular meals a day.
- Try to have as much warm food and drink as possible to keep your body temperature up.
- Drink plenty of water, you may not be sweating but it’s still important.
- Keep a healthy balanced diet including 5 portions of fruit or vegetables a day.
- Keep yourself active, this is especially important in winter as people are less likely to be up and about.
For more information on how diet and exercise can keep you and your family healthy visit Change4Life.
Hypothermia is an important issue during the winter; it is caused when the body’s temperature drops below 35 degrees Celsius. It is important that you can recognise the Symptoms of Hypothermia so you can spot it quickly. The groups that are most at risk from Hypothermia are:
- Babies and young children.
- Older people.
- Drug users.
- People recovering from illnesses.
- People who have fallen into cold water.
Remember: Be a good neighbour and check on the elderly or people who are living alone in your area.
You can clear ice and snow from footpaths yourself. There's no law stopping you from clearing snow and ice on the pavement outside your home or from public spaces. It's unlikely you'll be sued or held legally responsible for any injuries on the path if you have cleared it carefully. See the Snow Code for advice about clearing snow and ice safely.
- Begin as soon as the snow falls or at next easiest opportunity. Hard packed deep snow or snow that has been compressed into ice is far more difficult to remove than a few centimetres of freshly fallen snow.
- Do not use hot water, although this will get rid of snow easily eventually it will refreeze as black ice.
- Be careful when shovelling snow, it can put strain on your back if your technique is wrong.
- Be mindful of where you’re going to put excess snow, don’t put it on the path or covering drainage.
- Try spreading some table or dishwasher salts onto the effected areas after you’ve cleared them, this works almost as well as rock salt.
- Use the sun to your advantage, removing the top layer of snow should allow the sun to melt ice underneath.
- Particular attention should be given to steps and gradients such as disabled access.
Businesses should see our Business Continuity page in order to prepare for possible disruption caused by winter severe weather events.
On days when snow looks like it could threaten the closure of your child’s school it is important to keep updated using local radio or checking your Council’s website.