10 things you should do now to prepare for winter
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.
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 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, check your tyres and think about a winter kit for your car
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.
You should also take a quick check of 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.
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.
3. Consider alternative commuting plans for severe weather and alternative childcare plans in case of school or nursery closures
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. You may also be able to use a bus if the more main roads are clear. Think about whether there's an option for you to work from home if travel is not advised? Consider your alternative options and discuss with your employer in advance, so if the weather does turn you’re already prepared.
You should also think about alternative childcare options if school or nursery are closed.
4. 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.
5. 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. Find out more about dealing with a power cut.
6. Think about what may be impacted by strong winds or flooding – guttering, pipes, roof tiles/slates, garden items and things stored on your ground floor.
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 and fences can become problems too. Read more about preparing your property for winter weather and storms.
You should also check your property's flood risk and think about what you store on the ground floor of your house or business - could you keep important documents upstairs? 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 https://floodsdestroy.campaign.gov.uk/ and read about protecting your property from flooding.
7. Check your pipes are insulated and know where your stoptap is
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.
It's also important to know where your stoptap (also called stopcock or stop valve) is and to check it regularly to make sure it is working. This will enable you to turn off the water to your home quickly should there be a problem. Most can be found under the kitchen sink but other common places to find it include:
- Kitchen cupboard
- Downstairs bathroom or toilet
- Garage or utility room
- Under the stairs.
Property owners are responsible for the internal stop tap so if you can't locate it or it's not working, contact an approved plumber for help through WaterSafe.
Check out the WaterSafe website for more information and 'how-to' videos on protecting your plumbing in winter weather.
8. Make sure you have basic supplies in case you have to leave home quickly or your power and water are disrupted
It's worth putting together a 'grab bag', with the following in:
- Bottled water
- Torch, radio and batteries
- Copies of important documents
- A change of clothes
9. Share this checklist with your neighbours, see if they have any other tips and tell them if you can help in severe weather
Not everyone is able to access the help or information they may require to keep them safe and well in winter. It's nice to be neighbourly and the human contact with others can have really positive effects for everyone. You may be able to help your neighbour with an important job to prepare for winter, or your neighbour may be able to help you. Just taking time to make contact will be appreciated.
10. Find out what else you can do to prepare yourself and your community for severe weather
There are lots of things you could do to help your community, particularly if severe weather hits. Find out about getting involved in community emergency preparedness groups.