My Winter - Gas Engineer Katie Jelbert
Katie Jelbert is a Gas Engineer for Wales & West Utilities, the company that keeps the gas flowing to heat homes and power businesses across Wales and the south west of England.
Keeping you safe, warm and cooking on gas
Your gas network is reliable even in the worst weather. Being mainly buried underground helps! And even though we play a central role in your daily life (making sure you have the gas you need to keep your house warm and cook your dinner) the chances are the only contact you’ll have with me or my colleagues is when we’re upgrading the gas pipe that supplies your home – part of a 30 year investment programme to make sure that the gas network can be just as reliable long into the future.
With cold winter temperatures, gas use increases. Boilers powering central heating, hot water, and cookers, are flat out keeping you warm and fed! This is where you can play your part. We’re responsible for the gas pipes in the road and to your meter and we do our best to look after them. It’s your responsibility (or your landlord’s if you live in rented accommodation) to look after the pipes from your meter to the gas appliances in your home. So if you haven’t done it already, please make sure that you get all your appliances serviced every year by a Gas Safe Registered Engineer. That will ensure they’re operating safely and efficiently, and like our network, ready for the worst the British winter can throw at us.
Prepared for the worst
Even in the wildest winter weather there’s still work to be done. Our emergency gas engineers will get to you quickly to make sure you’re safe if you have a gas leak. I’m part of the team working to maintain the gas network. In Winter, most of our time is spent repairing leaks, either caused by ground movement, rapid freezing and thawing of the ground, or by damage caused to the gas network by builders or contractors digging without checking what’s beneath them. (You can really help us by calling 0800 912 2999 before you dig!) It means hours of digging, often by hand, to find damage and repair it. Working outside can be pleasant in the summer, less so in Winter. But like I say to my friends, until you’re waist deep digging a hole in the freezing cold you haven’t lived!
As bad weather conditions can slow our emergency engineers down, we plan our work carefully, keeping an eye on the weather conditions. We also prepare our equipment and logistics. Things like repair clamps, valves and other fittings are stockpiled at strategic locations from Wrexham to Redruth so we can get at them quickly if we need to. And of course, we’ve got alternative cooking and heating provisions ready to go in the unlikely event your gas supply is interrupted.
Looking after yourself
I live in Penzance, not far from Land’s End, so I have to prepare for winter myself. At home we make sure we get the garden sorted, get the thick coats out of the wardrobe and of course get our gas appliances serviced! But as I’m working outside all day I have to make sure I get things right too. We have some good thermal layers to stay warm, and I’d much rather be too hot than cold so I always add one too many. I try my best to look after my hands and feet as well, keeping them warm and dry, which is often easier said than done! And it might be a bit of a cliché but there’s not much better than a hot bath after working in the cold all day.
Top tips for Winter
This winter, ENA (Energy Networks Association) established the Winter Resilience Committee to help people stay warm and safe throughout the winter months. The Committee shared regular winter safety advice throughout the season, to ensure those most in need are prepared for cold and stormy weather. The public were encouraged to take these three steps:
- Know your free emergency numbers. In a power cut dial 105 or, for a gas emergency, dial 0800 111 999.
- Prepare your home. Keep a torch handy and get your appliances serviced by a Gas Safe registered engineer to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Keep your eyes open. Keep an eye on the weather forecast and, if you have a power cut or a gas emergency, check on your neighbours.