Winter weather can be very changeable. We can expect low temperatures, rain, high winds and snow. However, when any of these are for prolonged periods, they can impact the way we go about our daily lives and can affect those that live in our communities, particularly the vulnerable.
The following information will give you an idea of how to prepare for snow and ice, how to deal with frosty conditions and what the council will do to help you get about. You can find more information about being "WeatherReady" 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 a fair warning of a likely event and its impact.
Plan for power outages by visiting the Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) Get Ready page. These are the people that maintain the power lines - no matter from whom you buy your electricity. SSEN 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 and other snow/ice-related details. We also make them 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, see Adult Social Care. The Met Office - Getting communities ready for winter webpage provides useful information to 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 homes, although common sense should be applied.
Drive safely - if you do need to drive during periods of bad weather check the forecast in advance and 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, whilst the RAC - Advice about driving in winter and The AA - Advice for seasonal driving also provide really useful tips to help prepare your vehicle for travel during winter months and to 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, but some members of our communities are especially prone to cold-related illness as a result. 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 have serious concerns, please see adult social care.
Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP)
Anyone at risk of sleeping rough on the streets should call the housing duty team on 01628 683803.
Anyone who becomes homeless outside office hours should contact the council's Emergency Duty Service.
If you see a rough sleeper you can also call 0300 500 0914 or visit Streetlink giving the details of the rough sleeper and they will notify the relevant local authority.
What the council does when it snows
To help you get out and about, the council's contractors will give priority to the primary road network. This is to help make sure that buses can still run to get people to work and that emergency vehicles and food deliveries can get around.
Once they are under control then attention can be given to the secondary roads within the resources available. By this approach we try to make sure all major roads around the borough and those outside schools, shopping areas and health centres are kept available for use as best we can. Please visit our Winter Roads page for more information.
The council and its contractors will also try to avoid any delay to waste collection services, but 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 keep warm and healthy in winter.
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 and 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, and in some cases has meant people have needed to move out of their homes, notably 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 have a Winter Maintenance Plan, and during the winter months we operate a gritting programme to help keep conditions as safe as possible. Please see Winter Roads for more information.
For information see our Flooding page.
When high winds are forecast, remember that everyday items left outside can become 'missiles' and cause damage and danger to people. It's a common sight in winter to see pictures of airborne trampolines and garden furniture caught in gales!
Before it gets windy, it's also worth checking for loose tiles, slates and lead flashing on your roof, and removing dead branches from old trees to make sure you avoid accidents.