Cold-Health Alerts will help planning and preparedness this winter by keeping you informed
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) Weather-Health Alert system is aimed at health and social care professionals and anyone with a role in reducing health impacts caused by extended periods of hot or cold weather. For individuals receiving the service, it also provides situational awareness if health and well-being is at risk, allowing precautions to be taken. The service currently operates in England only and operates through the whole year with a seasonal focus. This service, previously issued by the Met Office, is now issued by UKHSA's new online alerting system but remains in association with the Met Office with regards to weather forecast input.
The alerts are weighted on adverse affects to public health and healthcare capacity, which is slightly different to the Met Office's National Severe Weather Warning Service which also considers other impacts of severe weather, such as to infrastructure. For this reason, note that the Health Alerts will often differ from the National Severe Weather Warnings on occasion.
Cold-Health Alert service criteria
The Cold-Health Alerts focus on the season between 1st November to 31st March every year.
The Cold-Health Alert Service will consider two aspects; adverse cold weather and health-sector resilience. The Met Office starts by assessing the risk of persistent low average temperatures and any significant snow/ice in the forecast before deciding to invoke a full further assessment with the UKHSA on the decision and colour of alert to send, where the UKHSA will also factor in various data from the health sector.
The Cold-Health Alert service has four colour states alert like the Heat-Health Alert. You can find more advice about what to do before, during and after snow and ice. We also have a host of information and advice about how to prepare for the winter months on our advice pages.
Green (summer preparedness) - No alert will be issued as the conditions are likely to have minimal impact on health. However, during periods where the risk is minimal it is important that organisations ensure that they have plans in place and are prepared to respond should an alert (yellow, amber or red) be issued.
Yellow (response) - These alerts cover a range of situations. Yellow alerts may be issued during periods of heat which would be unlikely to impact most people, but those you are particularly vulnerable (E.g. the elderly with multiple health conditions and on multiple medications) and are likely to struggle to cope and where action is required within the health and social care sector specifically. A yellow alert may also be issued if the confidence in the weather forecast is low, but there could be more significant impacts if the worst-case scenario is realised. In this situation the alert may be upgraded as the confidence in both the weather forecast and the likelihood of observing those impacts improves.
Amber (enhanced response) - An amber alert would represent a situation in which the expected impacts are likely to be felt across the whole health service, with potential for the whole population to be at risk and where other sectors apart from health may also start to observe impacts, indicating that a coordinated response is required. In addition, in some circumstances a National Severe Weather Warning Service (NSWWS) Extreme Heat warning may be issued in conjunction with and aligned to the Weather-Health Alert. This situation would indicate that significant impacts are expected across multiple sectors.
Red (emergency response) - A red alert would indicate significant risk to life for even the healthy population. A red Health-alert would likely be issued in conjunction with a similar appropriate red NSWWS warning, noting that the NSWWS warning also focusses on infrastructure impacts and may have slightly different coverage. Several impacts would be expected across all sectors with a coordinated response essential.
A full overview of the new Heat-Health Alert system is available from UKHSA.