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Home Your Safety Cold Weather Advice

Cold Weather Advice

When planning to travel

  • Check local TV, radio and internet for weather and traffic reports before travelling. The Met Office will provide regular updates in their Weather Warning Guide;
  • Make sure your mobile phone is fully charged, but do not use it when driving;
  • Pack plenty of warm clothing and drinks in your vehicle, including hot drinks in a flask, if possible. Keeping these items in the vehicle’s seating area, rather than boot will save time if you need to reach them; 
  • Be aware that high winds can affect the handling of your vehicle and sudden gusts can happen without warning – keep a good grip on the steering wheel and avoid overtaking high-sided vehicles;
  • Allow more time for braking in snow and icy conditions;
  • Allow more room between yourself and other vehicles – this will give you greater braking times and distances;
  • Driving in adverse weather conditions can be stressful and tiring – if you feel tired, take a break;
  • Before setting out on your journey, make sure that your vehicle is in good working order;
  • Make sure your car is in good mechanical order and your tyres are in good condition.
  • Ensure both windscreens and all windows are thoroughly defrosted and ice free before driving.

When trying to keep warm

  • Be careful when using open fires to keep warm – make sure you always use a fireguard to protect against flying sparks;
  • Make sure hot embers are under control and properly extinguished before going to bed or leaving the property;
  • Always unplug electric heaters when going to bed or leaving the property;
  • Keep heaters away from curtains and furniture and never use them for drying clothes;
  • Only use gas or paraffin heaters in well-ventilated areas and always have in place a carbon monoxide detector;
  • Never use hot water bottles in the same bed as an electric blanket, even if switched off;
  • Always unplug electric blankets before going to bed, unless it has a thermostat control for safe all-night use;
  • Keep chimneys and flues clean and well maintained. This should be done by a registered and competent person.

Wood burning stoves

  • Ensure that your stove is installed properly and maintained regularly;
  • Keep your flue open to allow plenty of oxygen in while using your stove;
  • Start your fire with clean newspaper or dry kindling.

The following safety tips should also be considered when using a wood burning stove:

  • Install and maintain a smoke alarm;
  • Install and maintain a carbon monoxide detector;
  • Always keep a fire extinguisher handy and in proper, working condition.

To help prevent your pipes from freezing, it’s important to:

  • Know where the internal stop/tap valve is (usually under the kitchen sink) and how to turn it off;
  • Keep your home as warm as possible even if you are out;
  • Lag pipes in exposed or draughty places;
  • Leave the trap door to the roof space open to let warm air flow in during extreme weather conditions when there is the chance that un-lagged water tanks and pipes could freeze;
  • See that taps are turned off properly;
  • Have contact details for a plumber.


Find out whether your area has been given a flood alert or flood warning

  • If you are driving, please do not attempt to drive through flood water. Just 30cm of moving flood water is enough to make your car float and potentially move you into deeper water where you could become stranded;
  • Do not let children play in flood water as it could be deeper than it seems; 
  •  Ensure good ventilation if using portable indoor heating appliances to dry out indoor spaces – do not use petrol or diesel generators or other similar fuel-driven equipment indoors: the exhaust gases contain carbon monoxide which can kill;
  • Do not turn on gas or electrics if they have got wet – only turn them on when they have been checked by a qualified technician;
  • Do not move or ignore road closures signs – they are there for your safety, so please do not ignore them.

For more advice on what to do to prepare for flooding or if you have been flooded, the Environment Agency and Public Health England have produced a Flooding: Advice for the Public guide

If available for your neighbourhood, sign up for free flood warning messages or call the Environment Agency’s Floodline: 0345 988 1188.

The cold weather during winter can often lead to frozen ponds and waterways including, canals, rivers, and lakes.

Although frozen water may look enticing, it is very dangerous and can have fatal consequences. Ice can easily break and you do not know how thin the ice you are standing on is or how deep the water is below.

Falling into freezing cold water can then cause cold water shock. Cold water shock refers to the reaction of the body to entering cold water. Cold water shock can have a dramatic effect on your body. It can cause you to breathe in water, weaken your muscles, and cause your heart to go into abnormal rhythms.

Ice Safety

Our advice:

  • Never walk or jump onto frozen water. Even if it appears thick from the bank, it could be thin and break easily. You also do not know how deep the water is below.
  • Do not be tempted to test the thickness of the ice. It is easy to slip from the bank and fall through into the freezing water.
  • Make sure children understand how dangerous it is to play on the ice and teach them not to go onto the ice under any circumstances. Adults can set a good example by staying off the ice themselves too.
  • Dog owners should ensure they keep their pets on a lead, and avoid throwing toys or sticks on the ice, so they are not at risk of falling in. If your dog does fall in, do not go onto ice or into the water to rescue them. Instead, move to a place the dog will be able to climb out and call them toward you.
  • Time your walks to make the most of the daylight; if you need to walk in the evening only use well-lit areas or take a route that avoids water.
  • Don’t wander too near the edge, icy or wet conditions could cause you to slip and fall in.

What to do if you fall through the ice: 

  • Keep calm and shout for help.
  • Spread your arms across the surface of the ice in front of you.
  • If the ice is strong enough, kick your legs to slide onto the ice.
  • Lie flat and pull yourself towards the bank.
  • If the ice breaks, work your way to the bank-breaking the ice in front of you.
  • If you cannot climb out, wait for help and keep as still as possible. Press your arms by your side and keep your legs together. Keep your head clear of the water.
  • Once you are safe, go to the hospital immediately for a check-up.

What to do if you see someone fall through the ice: 

  • Shout for assistance and phone 999.
  • Do not walk or climb onto the ice to attempt a rescue.
  • Shout to the casualty to ‘keep still’ and offer reassurance to keep them calm. 
  • Try to reach them from the bank using a rope, pole, tree branch, or anything else which can extend your reach, such as clothing tied together.
  • When reaching from the bank, lie down to avoid being pulled onto the ice 
  • If you cannot reach them, slide something which floats across the ice for them to hold onto whilst help is on the way.
  • If the casualty is too far away, do not attempt to rescue them. Wait for the emergency services and continue to reassure the casualty. 

What to do after the casualty has been rescued from the ice: 

  • Make sure an ambulance has been called.
  • Lay the casualty flat, check for normal breathing and begin resuscitation if necessary.
  • Prevent them from getting colder by covering them with warm clothing and blankets etc. 
  • Create some shelter and get them out of the cold if possible.
  • Until the casualty is in a warm place, do not undress them.
  • Do not rub their skin, do not apply hot water bottles, and do not give them anything alcoholic.

Further advice

  • In the event of a fire, always remember to get out, stay out and call 999;
  • During adverse weather, please be mindful of those in your community that may not be coping, check in on elderly or vulnerable relatives, friends and neighbours and be on the look-out for signs that something might be wrong.