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How to cope with severe cold weather

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General Advice:

  • Be informed - listen to local radio and check the weather forecast
  • Be careful when walking or driving on compacted snow – it may have turned to ice.  Avoid all unnecessary journeys

Driving

  • Avoid travelling in hazardous conditions. Stay off mountain passes and difficult roads or roads that have a steep incline
  • If you must make a journey when snow is forecast, try to wait until the roads have been gritted before travelling. Drivers should adjust their speed to suit the weather conditions. Black ice poses a particular hazard because it may not be visible to motorists and pedestrians
  • Allow extra time for your journey and drive with caution. Let someone know your route and when you expect to arrive

Public Transport

Public Transport should be considered as an alternative to driving where possible during severe weather spells.  Snow may disrupt the journey.  We advise that the public checks the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport website for information, where you will find a link to all public transport providers.

How to Avoid Frozen Pipes

  • Wrap a towel around an outside tap
  • Leave a light on in the attic
  • Open the attic trap door to allow heat in
  • Leave heating on longer than normal
  • Place a piece of insulation e.g. carpet/matting over your external stopcock
  • Do not leave taps running, as this could cause severe water shortages and water supply disruption
  • Ensure all exposed pipes, indoors and outdoors, are adequately lagged
  • Turn off water in unoccupied premises

Useful Advice

HSE Advice to the Public

  • Wear well-fitting shoes with non-slip soles if you have to go out but try to limit walking during the cold weather
  • If you have elderly neighbours, check that they have enough food, heat and prescription medications
  • If you have a fall, even a minor one, make sure you visit your doctor for a check up
  • Further information on health services in your area is available through the HSE Information Line, 1850 24 1850, and on the HSE website. Remember to call 112 or 999 if you need an ambulance
  • As part of its Winter Initiative the HSE information booklet, ‘Keep Well and Warm”, highlights what you can do to protect your health and wellbeing during the winter season.  This is aimed particularly at older and vulnerable people, the booklet is available from HSE Information Line on 1850 24 1850 and the HSE website

Useful links

Footpaths

  • Care should be taken on footpaths which have not been gritted
  • Businesses and householders are asked to assist their communities by clearing a path for pedestrians in the snow and underlying ice (where it exists)
  • If people are clearing snow from directly outside a commercial premises or a private residence, they should exercise caution, taking note of the following:
    1. Please be aware of the risks involved
    2. Wear warm and protective clothing, appropriate footwear and use the correct equipment
    3. Under no circumstance pour hot or cold water on the footpath as this will freeze almost immediately
    4. Use salt to treat the footpath surface
    5. Do not block road drainage or kerb drainage gullies
    6. Do not throw debris cleared from footpaths onto roads or pavements

Information for the Public

If you, or someone you see is in danger or face imminent threat to safety ring 999 or 112.

If you need assistance, contact your local authority. Contact numbers for local authorities (available on websites listed).  Enter the number you need into your mobile phone, and keep your phone charged and with you if you are leaving the house.

Safety Message - Pedestrians:

  • Good advice for pedestrians is provided on the Road Safety Authority’s website
  • Waterproof boots with rubber soles and solid ankle support are the best footwear for preventing slips and falls on the ice. These accidents are among the most common cause of injuries needing emergency hospital attention. Men, women and children are all advised to wear boots
  • People who normally don’t walk to their destination should bear in mind that their car/bus/taxi could get stuck  Everyone should have boots with them just in case
  • Be particularly careful when crossing roads or getting into or out of cars/buses/taxis
  • A pair of old socks worn over shoes can help to give grip in icy conditions

Safety Message - Drivers

Good advice for drivers is provided on the Road Safety Authority’s website

Additional advice provided by the Irish Red Cross includes:

  • Stop and offer roadside assistance if you see someone's car has broken down during severe weather; you could be saving someone's life
  • In areas where heavy snow is likely to fall, always carry a blanket in your car. Also, bring a charged mobile phone. Carry a torch, a brightly-coloured headscarf, matches, some chocolate bars, a flask of hot soup, a mobile phone and a sign that says HELP in big bright letters. If you break down or get stuck in snow don’t leave your car it will get noticed before you will. Put the HELP sign in your window, tie the headscarf to your car's aerial, turn off the engine and curl up in the blanket. Don't run your car's engine for more than a few minutes at a time and make sure its exhaust isn't blocked with snow. Be careful of leaving headlights/radios/hazard lights on for too long when the engine is not running, as it can drain the battery
  • Rugs and flasks of hot drinks are well advised for any journey, and particularly after nightfall when the temperatures are likely to drop; so too are flashlights (check that the batteries are working and bring spare batteries if possible) and a shovel

General Advice On Coping With the Cold

  • Body Heat
    Layers of clothes are advisable rather than one or two heavy garments while gloves and scarves are essential
  • Ambient Heat
    Take care about heating around you. Do not leave open fires (both real and electric) unattended. Ensure that any gas appliances that are switched on are actually lighting and pay particular attention when dealing with electrical appliances. Pay particular attention to the risks of carbon monoxide poisoning if switching on old heating systems that have not been used for some time and in general ensure proper ventilation
  • Hats & Hoods
    Hats and hoods provide added protection from cold weather. Best of all are the hats that cover your ears and waterproof hoods are also advised
  • Skin
    Men - as well as women - should bear in mind that cold conditions dry out the skin leading to cuts and cracks and therefore exposure to infection. A small tube of any basic moisturiser or skin barrier cream can be easily carried in your pocket and should be applied regularly to the hands and the face and any other area of the body that is exposed to extreme cold
  • Sunburn and Sun glare
    Sunlight reflected off ice and snow is strengthened so sunglasses and even sun protection cream could come in handy
  • Changeable Weather
    Above all people should bear in mind that extreme changes to temperature, light and road surfaces are likely in any given 8-hour period and they should therefore be prepared for such
  • During Severe Weather
    Elderly people are especially prone to hypothermia and pneumonia. Unfortunately, they are also the most likely to be living in older houses without adequate heating, so call in regularly on elderly friends, neighbours and relatives to see if they need help staying warm or getting provisions

Major Emergency Management – Including Severe Weather

A Framework for Major Emergency Management and its appendices, the associated guidance and protocol documents, together with the individual local major emergency plans, form the basis for integrated emergency management in Ireland, including also for severe weather events. It also provides for linking between local and central Government levels.

Further details on Major Emergency Management arrangements during times of severe weather can be found on the Framework for Major Emergency Management website

National Co-ordination Group

The National Co-ordination Group is a non-standing committee which is convened and chaired by the Department Housing, Planning and Local Government, in the event of emergencies such as severe weather or flooding.

The primary function of this group is to coordinate a whole of government support for the front-line effort, and to manage emerging issues at national level during the response to emergencies that impact at national level. This essential approach to co-ordination involves the relevant Government Departments, agencies, specialist/ technical groups and, most importantly, those managing the response at the front line.

The National Co-ordination Group provides for the collection and exchange of information, establishing national priorities, ensuring full and immediate co-operation between various organisations, ensuring that decisions on various matters are made promptly and as required and providing information for the public.

Severe Weather Warning Systems

Part of the local authorities’ severe weather emergency preparation includes ensuring that arrangements are in place to receive early warnings from Met Éireann.  The Met Éireann forecasting arrangements entail a single system known as Public Service Severe Weather Warning and cover meteorological conditions and elements such as wind, rain, snow, thunderstorm and coastal storm surge.  The emphasis is on warning of weather events that will cause significant disruption or constitute a significant risk for people. Information on the Met Éireann warning levels can be found on the Met Éireann web site

Winter Maintenance Systems on National Roads

Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII), formerly the National Roads Authority (NRA), operates the IceCast Road Weather Information System to assist local authorities in the management and delivery of each local authority’s winter maintenance activities. In this respect, TII operates a network of almost 60 road weather stations across the national road network, providing up-to-date information on road weather conditions. In addition, in conjunction with Met Éireann forecasts, the IceCast System provides weather forecasts for the national road network. This information can also be used by local authorities to plan their treatment of regional and local roads. For further information please go to the Transport Infrastructure Ireland website.

At the start of a cold weather spell, Local Authorities begin applying salt to priority routes in accordance with their winter maintenance plans. These plans involve the treatment of National routes first, followed by important regional and local roads. In determining a precise treatment sequence each local authority takes account of a section of road in the overall network. It is the priority for local authorities to consistently treat the national routes, as they carry over 60% of all traffic (including key public transport services) and 80 % of all commercial traffic, and are the key economic arteries for the delivery of goods, foodstuffs and fuel.

Severe weather may affect transport links. Please refer to the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport website  and associated sites for the most current information.

Contact Details

National Directorate for Fire and Emergency Management
The Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government
Rm. G59
Custom House
Dublin 1
D01 W6X0