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. And 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
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.
3. Check 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.
4. Think about a winter kit for your car
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.
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. Can you work from home if travel is not advised? Consider your alternative options and discuss with your employer so if the weather does turn you’re already prepared.
6. 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.
7. 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.
8. Check your pipes are insulated
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.
9. Know where your stoptap is
Do you know where your stoptap (also called stopcock) is? It’s something you should know so you can turn off the water to your home quickly should there be a problem. Most are under the kitchen sink, or sometimes in a cupboard, garage or cellar. Read more about frozen or burst pipes.
10. Think about what may be impacted by strong winds – guttering, pipes, roof tiles/slates, garden items
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. Read more about preparing your property for winter weather and storms.
11. Check whether you are at risk of flooding
Check if you are at risk of flooding using a simple postcode search. 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.
12. Freeze a loaf of bread and pint of milk for times of bad weather
Thinking about a few freezer-friendly foods and how to combine them with store cupboard staples means you can still serve up a feast for the family - even if you can’t get out to the shops. Read more tips for sensible stocking up and making the most of what's in the cupboards.