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Snow and low temperatures

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General advice during snow and low temperatures

snowiceIn recent years the UK has experienced periods of low temperatures and persistent snowfall which can have dramatic effects on every day life.  These have caused increases in injuries due to accidents and falls, failure of communications and power supplies and closure of transport networks.

In winter, the cold weather combined with low levels of sunlight after the clocks go back, means that many of us feel in poor health.  Extreme cold weather can affect us all.  However, certain groups may be at particular risk.  The very young, very old or those with pre-existing medical conditions are more susceptible.  Prolonged exposure to the cold can cause frostbite or hypothermia which can become life threatening.  Rain can form as ice where surface temperatures are below freezing.  Even a small amount of ice can be extremely hazardous to motorists and pedestrians. 

Winter storms can be accompanied by strong winds which create blizzard conditions bringing blinding wind-driven snow, severe snow drifting and dangerous wind chill.  This in turn can knock down trees, utility and power lines. 

Freezing temperatures can cause pipes to freeze and burst in homes that are poorly insulated or without heat and can cause severe damage to vegetation and wildlife.  Long periods of below freezing temperatures can cause rivers and lakes to freeze over. Individuals often put themselves at risk by attempting to walk over frozen water bodies.

Prolonged snowfall can severely affect communities across large geographical areas, stranding commuters, affecting supply chains and disrupting emergency services.  Accumulations of heavy ice and snow can bring down trees, electrical wires, telephone lines and collapse structures.  This can lead to severe disruption over a number of days whilst utility companies work to restore service.

So what can we do to stay healthy this winter?

The government has issued advice on staying safe and healthy during the winter.  It is particularly aimed at the over 60’s, low-income families and people living with a disability.  However, the general advice within the ‘Keep Warm Keep Well’ booklet is applicable to everyone.  This booklet promotes its five top tips for keeping warm and well:

  1. Heat your home well. By setting your heating to the right temperature (18-21oC or 64-70 oF), you can keep your home warm and your bills as low as possible.
  2. Get financial support.  There are grants, benefits and sources of advice available to make your home more energey efficient, improve your heating or help with bills.  It’s worthwhile claiming all the benefits you are entitled to.
  3. Eat well.  Food is a vital source of energy, which helps to keep your body warm.  Try to make sure that you have hot meals and drinks regularly throughout the day.
  4. Get a flu jab.  You can get a free jab from your GP to protect against seasonal flu is you are over 65, have a long-term health condition or are pregnant.
  5. Look after yourself and other.  On cold days try to avoid going outside; however, if you do need to, remember to wrap up warm.  If you have an older neighbour or relative, look out for them during winter to make sure that they are safe and well.

The list below provides you with additional things that you should consider to prepare for winter:

Help and Advice

The Home Heat Helpline – 0800 33 66 99 (9am-8pm Mon-Fri and 10am-2pm Sat) or visit www.homehethelpline.org.uk

A free national helpline offering access to grants for free home insulation and reduced or ‘social’ tariffs from energy suppliers, as well as advice on managing you bills and reducing your energy use.

Age UK – 0800 169 6565 (8am-7pm seven days a week) or visit www.ageuk.org.uk

Age Uk is the new force combining Age Concern and Help the Aged.  It offers advice and information for people in later life on welfare and disability benefits, health and community care issues housing and help with heating.  Local UK/Age Concern branches offer a range of services including benefit checks, exercise and social activities, lunch clubs and day centres.

Gingerbread – 0800 802 0925 (9am-5pm Mon, Tue, Thu, Fri and 9am-8pm Wed) or visit www.gingerbread.org.uk

Gingerbread provides advice and practical support for single parents.

Scope and DIAL UK

These organisations offer the best combination of local knowledge and national disability expertise, providing free, impartial and expert information, advice and support to disabled people and families.

Scope – freephone 0808800 3333 (9am-5pm weekdays and closed weekends and Bank Holidays) or visit www.scope.org.uk

DIAL UK – 01302 310123 or visit www.dialuk.info

Citizen Advice – 08444 77 1010 (10am-4pm Mon to Fri) or visit www.citizensadvice.org.uk

Your local bureau will be able to give you advice on benefits, heating, grants and debt.