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Staffordshire Fire & Rescue Service - Preventing, Protecting, Responding

Cold weather alert issued for the county

12/01/2016

Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service is urging residents to make sure they are prepared for the cold weather, ahead of severe conditions forecast for this week.

"When the weather gets colder and more hazardous I would urge people to avoid driving if at all possible and to only make trips that are absolutely essential. A light snowfall combined with freezing conditions can turn roads icy, making driving conditions extremely dangerous."

Station Manager in Central Prevent and Protect Dez Stoddart

The MET office has today issued a Level 2 cold weather alert and temperatures are  set to plummet with wintry showers and snowfall predicted across Staffordshire.

A Level 2 alert means that within the next 48 hours, there is a 60 per cent chance of severe weather, with average temperatures of 2 degrees Celsius or below. There is also the possibility of wintry showers, overnight frost and a chance of icy patches.

Residents are being asked to consider older relatives, friends and neighbours who are more vulnerable in colder weather. Where possible people are encouraged to check they are warm enough and heating their property safely, that their smoke alarms are working, and that they have adequate food and drink supplies.

Station Manager in Central Prevent and Protect Dez Stoddart said: “We want to prevent any serious incidents occurring as a result of the weather conditions.
“More accidental fires happen in winter than at any other time of the year. Older people can be particularly vulnerable due to the increase in use of portable electric heaters and open fires.

“Portable heaters should never be left on unattended overnight while fireguards should cover an open fire at all times and chimneys and flues should be kept clean and well maintained. People must always remember to keep their candles away from curtains, material and furniture.

“When the weather gets colder and more hazardous I would urge people to avoid driving if at all possible and to only make trips that are absolutely essential. A light snowfall combined with freezing conditions can turn roads icy, making driving conditions extremely dangerous.

“In wet or icy conditions there is often an increase in road traffic collisions, many of       which could be avoided if people checked their vehicles were winter ready and drove   with the extra care required.

“It is important to take into account the extra braking distance needed on wet, icy or snow-covered road surfaces and to always keep a safe distance away from the car in front.”

Residents are encouraged to keep up-to-date with the latest weather information by monitoring the websites and social media pages of the MET Office, as well as listening to the travel news on local radio stations. Winter home safety and driving safety information is also available from the Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service website and social media pages.

Tips on staying safe this winter:
• Ensure your central heating system is working properly.
• Ensure you have enough food and drink supplies available in case bad weather prevents you from going outside.
• Unplug your electric blanket before you get into bed – unless it has a thermostat control for safe all-night use.
• Always position heaters so their back is against the wall and they’re facing the room.
• Keep portable heaters clear from curtains and furniture and never use them for drying clothes.
• Make sure candles are in a proper holder and away from materials that may catch fire such as curtains.
• Put candles out when you leave the room and ensure they are completely out when going to bed.
• Sweep the chimney before use if you haven’t used it for some time.
• Always keep a fire guard in front of an open fire.
• Ensure your smoke alarms work.

Winter Driving
• Ensure your vehicle is ready for the winter. Check the tread on your tyres and that you have sufficient air pressure.
• Check that your lights work properly.

Snow
• Only make essential journeys.
• Wrap up in warm clothes and always let people know where you are going and what time you expect to be back.
• Allow plenty of extra time for your journey and drive carefully and slowly.
• Keep an emergency kit of warm, clothes, a shovel, food and drink and a fully charged mobile phone in the car in case you get stuck in the snow.

When roads are icy or slushy
• It can take ten times longer to stop in icy conditions than on a dry road. Drive slowly, allowing extra room to slow down and stop.
• Use the highest possible gear to avoid wheel spin.
• Manoeuvre gently, avoiding harsh braking and acceleration.
• To brake on ice or snow without locking your wheels, get into a low gear earlier than normal, allow your speed to fall and use the brake peddle gently.
• If you start to skid, ease of the accelerator but do not brake suddenly.

Winter sun
• Dazzle from winter sun can be dangerous, so keep a pair of sunglasses handy.

Rain
• Stopping distances are doubled in wet conditions because your tyres have less grip on the road.
• You should keep well back from the vehicle in front. This will increase your ability to see and plan ahead.
• If steering becomes unresponsive, it probably means the water is preventing the tyres from gripping the road. Ease off the accelerator and slow down gradually.
• Don’t try and drive through flood water – you have no idea how deep it is or what debris may be lurking underneath the surface.

For all non-emergency enquiries contact: 08451 22 11 55 or log onto: www.staffordshirefire.gov.uk or www.direct.gov.uk/firekills. In an emergency dial 999.