Cold weather, snow and ice

Cold weather affects us all. Long spells of cold weather can result in major disruption to the road and rail network.

Long-lasting cold weather events pose a danger to people who may be considered vulnerable for e.g. those requiring daily care.

It is essential for everyone to keep safe and warm in winter, particularly the elderly and vulnerable. Below are some simple things you can do to keep warm and stay healthy during periods of severe cold weather.

Staying safe at home

During the day

Set your thermostat at around 21ºC (70ºF) and heat all the rooms you use regularly in the day.

If you can't heat all your rooms make sure you keep your living room warm throughout the day and heat your bedroom before going to bed.

Set the timer on your heating to come on before you get up and switch off when you go to bed.

In very cold weather, rather than turn the thermostat up, set the heating to come on earlier so you won't be cold while you wait for your home to heat up.

During the night

Try to keep a temperature of above 18°C (65°F) in your bedroom overnight.

If you use a fire or heater in your bedroom during winter, open the window or door a little at night for ventilation.

An electric blanket or a hot water bottle will help you keep warm but never use them together as you could electrocute yourself.

If you have an electric blanket, check what type it is - some are designed only to warm the bed before you get in and should not to be used throughout the night.

If you use an electric blanket make sure it is safe. Damaged electric blankets cause more than 5'000 house fires a year and people aged 65 or more are at greatest risk with six times the national average of fatal injuries.

Key safety measures can be found on the Age UK website.

Further advice can be found on the NHS website 'Keep Warm, Keep Well'.

Keeping safe when heating your home

Carbon monoxide kills more than 50 people each year in England and Wales.

Levels that don't kill can cause serious harm to health if breathed in over a long time. Carbon monoxide is given off by cooking or heating appliances that are incorrectly installed, poorly maintained or poorly ventilated.

You can't see or smell carbon monoxide, so the best way to protect yourself is to have all gas and fossil fuel cooking and heating appliances, and flues and chimneys, serviced regularly.

The servicing (and any installation) should be done by a registered engineer.

The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headaches, feeling tired and sick and difficulty in thinking clearly.

If you suffer from these symptoms and you think they could be caused by carbon monoxide exposure:

  • stop using all your cooking and heating appliances 
  • open the windows in your home 
  • see your doctor at once 
  • call a qualified engineer to check all your cooking and heating appliances.

The Energy Saving Trust has advice about insulation and heating.

The London Fire Brigade offer home fire safety visits giving you advice on how to make your home safe.

Travelling in cold weather, snow and ice

The best advice for driving in bad winter weather is not to drive at all, if you can avoid it.

Don't go out until the snow ploughs and gritting trucks have had a chance to do their work, and allow yourself extra time to reach your destination.

If you must drive in snowy conditions, make sure your car is prepared and that you know how to handle road conditions. 

Avoiding slips and trips

Do not underestimate the dangers of snow and ice. Many slips and falls on snow and ice happen in places people regard as safe and secure, typically outside their front door, on the door step, on the path or while getting out of their car.

The best way you can help yourself and your neighbours in times of severe ice and snow is to clear your driveway and paths.

There are many fallacies about the legal ramifications of clearing snow and ice from outside your home.

If you are worried about legal action if you clear snow and ice from approaches to your home and/or business, you can feel reassured by government guidance from the Met Office.