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Plan for cold weather

Posted on 20/01/2014

It's starting to get colder in the UK after a mild winter so far. Before it gets too late, now is the time to start thinking about preparing yourself, your family and in particular elderly or vulnerable relatives and neighbours.

The government published its own 'Cold weather plan for England 2013', which is a series of leaflets and cards to help people and service providers to forward-plan this year. The idea is to warn people about the effects of cold weather on health and the preventative solutions that are available.

There are various ways that the cold weather can impact on our health, from practical problems, such as fuel poverty and poor housing, to infections, like flu and norovirus. Snow and ice can also cause things like trips and falls, which can have a great impact for many people.

There are levels of risk associated with cold weather, which goes from Level 0 to Level 4. Level 0 is related to all-year-round planning to ensure that you are fully prepared for winter. The Levels 1-5 run from simply being prepared in the winter months through to major incidents. It is best to have thought out your own cold weather plan in advance, so if the risk level does rise, then you won't be unprepared.

So, what can you do? In the first instance, it pays to get an expert to check the fuel efficiency of your home. Costs are rising and it is getting more difficult to actually afford heating for many people. Having an assessment can save you money in the long-term as you could be wasting a lot of energy under doors, or through windows. Think about things like draught excluders and thick layered curtains, to help keep the warmth in. Make sure that your boiler and any other heating appliances are serviced, as well-maintained equipment is more efficient and wastes less.

Next, find out if you are entitled to any winter benefits or payments to help with heating costs. Get this sorted in advance of actually needing it, so you can plan your finances accordingly. Also see if you can get a free flu jab (those in particular risk categories usually can) so that you can ward off some infections.

When the weather starts to drop, think about layering clothing so you can adapt to changing temperatures. Try and maintain a consistent temperature in the room that you spend the most time in, and speak to any care workers, GPS or health visitors that you have regular time with to ask them what you can be doing to protect your health during the winter.

If it starts to get very cold, and snow and ice are becoming a problem, then plan your daily activities accordingly. Don't take unnecessary risks and listen to the latest weather reports for your area. If you do need to get out and about, make sure that you are wrapped up properly and that you wear shoes with a good tread to prevent slipping. If it isn't safe to leave the house, consider shopping delivery services to keep you stocked up with essentials.

Staying warm is a priority, which can be achieved through maintaining room temperature, wearing plenty of layers, covering the neck with a scarf to stop chills, blocking draughts and closing curtains and sipping warm drinks. If you are not a vulnerable person, then do check on elderly or disabled neighbours and relatives, who may need more help to cope with the conditions.  

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