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Cold Weather Plan

The Department of Health and the NHS have issues a Cold Weather Plan to help protect individuals and communities. These pages have extracts from the advice for individuals and for community groups.

If you run a community group or voluntary agency, click here for other NHS guidance.

Individuals, families and carers

Level 1

Consider how you can protect  yourself and your family and friends from the effects of cold weather:

  • Ensure that you can easily access information about cold weather  and health (further information is given in the Cold Weather Plan and in the companion  document  to the plan, Making  the Case).
  • Make sure that you and your family members have received all appropriate vaccinations (influenza, pneumococcal, meningitis), particularly if you or they are in an at-risk group.
  • Ensure that you have a room thermometer.
  • Consider improving the heating  efficiency of your home, including better  insulation.
  • Find out whether you are entitled to grants and subsidies for home heating  and insulation.
  • Check that home heating,  radiators, boilers and electric heaters are serviced ahead of winter to reduce the risk of breakdowns  during  the cold weather.
  • Have all gas, solid fuel and oil burning appliances (i.e. boilers, heaters and cookers) serviced by an appropriately registered engineer. Malfunctioning appliances can release carbon monoxide  – a gas which at high levels will kill and at lower levels can cause health problems.
  • Make sure that flues and chimneys are swept and checked for blockages and that there is adequate ventilation in rooms to allow appliances to work properly.  Fit an audible carbon monoxide  alarm which is EN50291 compliant, although fitting this type of alarm should not replace regular maintenance  of appliances.
  • Where the home is not connected to the mains gas network and heating  oil or LPG is the main heating source, households should ensure that heating  oil and gas are purchased early to avoid running out during  periods of severely cold weather.
  • Consider who might  be at particular risk from cold weather  among your family, neighbours  and friends, and how you can help them to protect  themselves against the ill-effects  of cold weather.
  • Layer your clothing and wear shoes with  a good grip if you need to go outside.
  • Follow expert advice on protecting and insulating your water pipes against freezing  (advice on pipe protection and what to do in the event of bursts is given by most water companies on their websites).

Level 2

Consider how you can protect  yourself and your family and friends, especially those most at risk.

These include older people, the very young, and people with  underlying medical conditions,  including respiratory  conditions  such as asthma and chronic obstructive  pulmonary disease (COPD).

Actions to prepare for impending severe winter weather  include:

  • Stay informed by tuning in to weather  forecasts.
  • Take the weather  into account when planning your activity over the following days. For example, avoid exposing yourself to cold or icy outdoor conditions  if you are at higher risk of cold-related illness or falls.
  • Consider how you can access essential medication and groceries without putting yourself at risk, for example by getting supplies in early, having them delivered, or asking a friend  or neighbour for help.
  • Check that the heating  in your home is working properly,  that your home is warm enough and that at least one room meets recommended  room temperatures (see table below).
  • Consider whether any friends and family could benefit from some additional support during  the cold snap.
  • Discuss with  neighbours,  community, friends and relatives about clearing snow and ice from in front of your house and public walkways nearby if you are unable to do this yourself.

Level 3

Families, friends and carers of people in high-risk groups, such as older people and those with  respiratory conditions,  should check on them regularly  during the severe weather  period.

There are a number of simple actions that those at risk can take to protect  against the ill-effects  of cold weather.  These include the following:

 During the day

  • Avoid going outdoors unless necessary – but keep active and moving around indoors as much as you can.
  • Keep your home at recommended  indoor  temperatures (see table below).
  • If you cannot heat all your rooms, 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 that you will not be cold while you wait for your home to heat up.

During the night

  • If you use a fire or heater in your bedroom  during  winter, open the window or door a little at night for ventilation.
  • Keep your bedroom  at recommended  indoor  night-time temperatures (see table below).
  • Never use an electric blanket  and hot water bottle 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.
  • Make sure that your electric blanket  is safe by getting it tested every three years by an expert. The Fire Brigade and Trading Standards can test your electric blanket  for safety. If buying a new electric blanket look for CE, BEAB or IMQ safety marking.

Recommended indoor temperatures

Indoor temperature Effect
21°C (70˚F) Minimum recommended  daytime temperature for rooms occupied during  the day
18°C (65˚F) Minimum recommended night-time temperature for bedrooms. No health risk, though may feel cold

Dress warmly

  • Wearing plenty of thin layers is warmer than one thick one.
  • Put on a coat, hat, scarf, gloves and warm, non-slip shoes or boots when you go outside.
  • Wear clothes made of wool, cotton  or fleecy synthetic fibres.
  • Stay warm in bed with  bed socks, thermal  underwear and a nightcap  or headscarf.

Manage your energy use

  • Shut and draughtproof outside doors.
  • Draw your curtains at dusk to help keep the heat generated  inside your rooms.
  • Make sure that your radiators are not obstructed  by curtains or furniture.
  • Boil only the water you need rather than filling the kettle  completely.
  • Do not use a gas cooker or oven to heat your home as this is inefficient and there is a risk of carbon monoxide  poisoning.

More information is available from the Keep Warm Keep Well web page: