Working together for a resilient Birmingham.

Get Ready for Winter


Winter readiness checklist – 12 things you can do to prepare

It always pays to be prepared for winter. There are a few simple steps you can take to prepare yourself, your vehicle and your home or business. And is there anyone else you can help prepare for winter? Perhaps a neighbour, friend, elderly relative?

1. Get your flu jab

Flu affects people in different ways. If you are healthy you will usually shake it off within a week, but for young children, older people with chronic health conditions, it can be very serious.  The annual flu vaccination is offered free to people who are at most at risk from the effects of flu. Find out more about flu vaccinations and who is eligible for a free one.

2. Top up anti-freeze screen wash

It is advisable to use a screen wash additive as this helps to keep the windscreen free of dirt and winter road grime caused by road salting and gritting which can cause visibility issues. There is also the risk of a frozen windscreen which is another reason to ensure you use a proper anti-freeze screen wash. Read more about preparing your car for winter.

3. Check your tyres

Not only is it dangerous to drive in winter conditions with low levels of tread on your vehicle’s tyres, it’s also illegal. Check your tyres regularly to avoid a fine of £2500 and three penalty points per tyre found below the legal depth. Read more about tyres and vehicle checks to make before a long journey.

4. Think about winter kit for your car

If you get stuck in your car in winter it could be dangerous, so get a winter car kit ready: ice scraper, de-icer, jump leads, shovel, blanket, sunglasses (for winter glare from the low sun), torch. Get all these things ready before the start of winter and then keep them in the car – you never know when you might need them. For longer trips think about food, water and medicines too. Here’s what should be in your winter car kit.

5. Consider alternative commuting plans for severe weather

It’s worth thinking about how you might get to work in the event of severe weather. Sometimes roads may be more affected than the rail network, but on other occasions the opposite may be true. Can you work from home if travel is not advised? Consider your alternative options and discuss with your employer so if the weather does turn you’re already prepared.

6. Check your heating – your home should be heated to at least 18 °C

Cold weather can be a risk to your health, particularly if you are over 65 or have health conditions. The cold thickens blood and increases blood pressure, and breathing in cold air can increase the risk of chest infections.

Your home (and those of your elderly relatives and neighbours) should ideally be at least 18 °C. During cold spells, keep your windows closed at night as this could cause a real drop in the temperature indoors.  If you have a heating boiler consider getting it serviced before the coldest weather arrives. Find out more about heating your home and ways you can save money.

7. Consider how you would access vital information if a storm takes out power and phonelines

We are so reliant on the internet, but if a storm meant power and mobile phone networks were affected, what would you do?  Consider a separate battery charger, and you could store key information such as the power cut helpline number (105) on your phone.

8. Check your pipes are insulated

Insulating pipes has two benefits – you’ll keep the heat in, saving you money, but it also means reduced risk of frozen pipes which can burst, causing flooding, damage and leaving your home without water.

9. Know where your stoptap is

Do you know where your stoptap (also called stopcock) is? It’s something you should know so you can turn off the water to your home quickly should there be a problem. Most are under the kitchen sink, or sometimes in a cupboard, garage or cellar.

10. Think about what may be impacted by strong winds – guttering, pipes, roof tiles/slates, garden items

In windy weather surprising things can become dangerous. Trees or branches can come down, cast iron guttering could be lethal and so can roof slates. Garden furniture and even children’s toys and trampolines can fly around causing damage and potential harm.

11. Check whether you are at risk of flooding

Check if you are at risk of flooding using a simple postcode search. Sign up for free flood warnings: if you live in an area at risk of flooding you could get free flood warnings direct to your mobile, home phone, or email. Know what to do in a flood: download the Environment Agency’s ‘Prepare Act Survive’ flood guide. Find out more at and read about protecting your property from flooding.

12. Freeze a loaf of bread and pint of milk for times of bad weather

Thinking about a few freezer-friendly foods and how to combine them with store cupboard staples means you can still serve up a feast for the family – even if you can’t get out to the shops. Read more tips for sensible stocking up and making the most of what’s in the cupboards.

Get ready for winter

Public Health England (PHE) ‘Keep Antiobiotics Working’

On Monday 23rd October 2017, Public Health England (PHE) launches a national campaign ‘Keep Antibiotics Working’ highlighting that taking antibiotics when you don’t need them puts you and your family at risk. To help keep antibiotics working you are urged to always take your doctor or nurse’s advice on antibiotics.

Watch the new campaign video


It is estimated that 5,000 deaths are caused every year in England because antibiotics no longer work for some infections and this figure is set to rise with experts predicting that in just over 30 years antibiotic resistance will kill more people than cancer and diabetes combined.

Antibiotics help ward off infections during chemotherapy, caesarean sections and other surgery. They also treat serious bacterial infections, such as pneumonia, meningitis and sepsis, but they are being used for everyday viral infections, such as colds or flu, where they are not effective. Taking antibiotics encourages harmful bacteria that live inside you to become resistant. That means that antibiotics may not work when you really need them.

The campaign will also support health care professionals by boosting support for alternatives to prescribing antibiotics. TV, radio and social media will be utilised to provide a broad reach in promoting the campaign.

Leaflets and posters, will be available for healthcare settings including GP surgeries and pharmacists. Resources are available free to healthcare professionals and are available from the PHE campaign resource centre






Personal Flood Plan

Checklists to help you prepare for flooding.


If you live in a flood risk area, do what you can now to prepare for a flood. Don’t wait until it happens; you may not have time.

The personal flood plan includes a list of things you should do (like moving sentimental items to safety), and provides space for you to note down important contact details such as your utility companies and insurance.


Download this short 3-point plan ‘Flood Warnings – know what to do? to find out what each level of flood warning means.

Flood Warnings What to do


Download, print and fill in the PDF version of a personal flood plan on this page.

Personal Flood Plan


Related information: Prepare for a flood.

Know what you’re buying!

s300_logoImage_960x640_05 Fake Meds

Ten top tips for buying medicines and medical devices online safely

Medicines and medical devices are serious things. When you buy from dodgy websites or from someone not authorised to sell medicines online, this significantly increases your risk of buying a fake, which means you don’t know what you’re getting and you don’t know what it can do to your body.

We’ve put together these tips to help you reduce the risks to your health and money when you buy medical products online.

All online retailers of medicines, operating legally in the EU, must display it. The most reliable way to ensure you are buying products from a registered and approved online seller of medicines is to click here to check the approved list.

2. Look for the CE mark on medical devices

A manufacturer displaying a CE mark on their medical device is saying their product complies with the essential regulatory requirements, designed to make sure products work as they’re supposed to and are acceptably safe.

3. “Natural” does not mean safe

Products that claim to be ‘herbal’ or ‘all-natural’ can actually contain chemical ingredients. Each year we seize thousands of slimming products which claim to be herbal but contain sibutramine – a medicine which was withdrawn from sale due to serious side effects including strokes and heart attacks. Similarly, there are countless ‘herbal’ erectile dysfunction medications available online that could put your health at risk.

If you are unsure about the safety of a medicine claiming to be “natural” or “herbal” you should check for a Product Licence (PL) number or Traditional Herbal Registration (THR) number / the THR logo. This means the product has been assessed by MHRA for safety and has been manufactured correctly. For more information, visit NHS Choices.

4. Check for secure payment options

When entering personal information, look out for a small padlock in the address bar or elsewhere in the frame of your browser (not the webpage itself). This will indicate that the information you enter will be encrypted and isn’t being stolen. If the padlock symbol is not present, do not enter your information.

5. Check the small print

Scam sites often encourage you to sign up, committing you to hand over your money for a “trial”. In fact, you could be agreeing to a schedule of large regular payments from your account for useless or dangerous products. Read the small print carefully and know what you are signing up to.

6. Be wise to gimmick marketing

Terms like “detox” and “fat-melting” are meaningless, without any scientific or medical basis but they are the kind of words people selling dodgy slimming pills use to make you think their product will work.

7. If they tell you it’s safe, they might be lying

Even if the people selling you a product assures you it’s safe, if it arrives with a label which reads “not for human consumption”, don’t take this under any circumstances. You have no way of knowing how your body is going to react – especially if the product has been designed for livestock!

8. Don’t self-diagnose

We know it is tempting to Google symptoms and self-diagnose but there there are many reasons why you should visit your healthcare professional if you believe you need medical treatment for something. A doctor can:

  • give you their expert opinion about your condition and help work out the right treatment for you, in light of your medical history
  • prescribe you medicines which you can be sure have gone through the proper tests for safety and effectiveness – and importantly, you can be sure that it’s the real thing!

9. Dodgy website design can mean a dodgy website

Look for signs of scam websites put together by amateurs in a hurry. Poor design, pop-ups, spelling and grammar errors which may indicate poor translation, should all set off alarm bells. Checking reviews can also help you spot a scam site – but scammers often add their own fake reviews. The consumer association Which? have put together a guide on how to spot genuine online reviews.

10. If in doubt, report it!

if you suspect a website of selling fakes or think you’ve bought a fake medicine or medical device report it to us.

You can also report to our Yellow Card scheme if you:

  • think you’ve experienced side effects from a suspected fake medicine
  • think you’ve experienced an unexpected or unwelcome consequence by using a suspected fake medical device

This information will help us continue to seize fake medical products, close down websites that are putting people’s health at risk and prevent others from experiencing the problems you might have had.

Keep in touch with the campaign

Visit the campaign website, or follow us on @MHRAgovuk using #FakeMeds, and Facebook. There will be a range of videos and quick accessible tools to help you protect your health and money when you buy medical products online.

Give safely to charities helping people fleeing Myanmar, Charity Commission urges

s300_Press-office Charity Commission

Charity Commission is encouraging the public to give generously and safely to registered charities carrying out humanitarian aid to people fleeing Myanmar.

The Charity Commission is encouraging the public to donate generously and safely to charities delivering humanitarian aid to help the people who have fled violence in Myanmar. The safer giving advice issued by the Commission follows the launch of the emergency appeal by the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) on Wednesday.

The Commission wants to ensure that donations are reaching genuine charities during this critical time where humanitarian aid is needed to provide shelter, medical care, water and food for hundreds of thousands of people.

Most fundraising is genuine, but the Commission stresses that fraudsters and criminals do take advantage of public generosity during times of increased fundraising; methods can include fake appeal websites, email appeals that falsely use the name of genuine charities, or appeals from fake charities.

The regulator says that falling victim to false appeals is avoidable if a few simple steps are taken before giving, including checking a charity’s name and registration number against its check charity tool and being careful when responding to emails or clicking links within them.

Helen Stephenson, Chief Executive of the Charity Commission, said:

It is truly chilling to hear about the plight of people fleeing violence in Myanmar, and the terrible conditions they are currently facing. We want people to continue donating generously and confidently to charities delivering essential humanitarian aid, to ensure that funds are reaching the end cause safely.

It is unfortunate that times of crisis and need can trigger fraudsters to take advantage of people’s generosity, but by following a few simple steps, you can make sure your donation goes to the registered charities doing vital work, including the DEC member charities.

The DEC brings together 13 registered UK aid charities who are experts in humanitarian aid and deliver efficient disaster responses to those affected by the appealed crises. There are also other registered charities doing critical work to offer or support humanitarian aid during this time.

The Commission is advising people to take a few simple steps to avoid fraudulent fundraising:

  • before giving, check the charity’s name and registration number on the check charity tool. This will help you make an informed decision before donating by providing information about each charity, including its charitable purposes and activities, registered contact details, and its compliance and financial history and accounts.
  • take care when responding to emails or clicking links to a charity’s website to ensure that they are genuine. Instead, search online for your preferred charity to ensure you have the right web address.
  • if you have any concerns about the legitimacy of a request for donations that appears to come from a charity, don’t hesitate to contact that charity directly to request further information.
  • when approached by collectors on the street, check whether they are wearing a proper ID badge and that any collection tin is sealed.

If you think that a collection or appeal is not legitimate, you can report it as a crime online to Action Fraud or call them on 0300 123 2040 or online.

You can also complain about a charity on GOV.UK

Any concerns about fundraising standards should be sent to the Fundraising Regulator.


PR 66/17

Notes to editors

  1. The Charity Commission is the independent regulator of charities in England and Wales
  2. Search for charities on our online check charity tool.

Press office

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