News

Be prepared for cold weather

4th September, 2014

With the best part of summer now behind us and the autumnal equinox just a couple of weeks away; it won't be long before temperatures start to fall. Once that occurs you don't need us to tell you that it can be a very difficult time of year, especially for the elderly. Whilst winter deaths have been declining steadily since the 1960s, statistics from the Office for National Statistics show that there were over 31,000 excess winter deaths in England and Wales during the winter of 2012/13.

To help raise awareness and encourage people to take precautions against prolonged periods of cold and icy weather, The Met Office works in conjunction with Public Health England to provide Cold Weather Alerts. In operation between 1st November and 31st March every year, the alerts are provided to NHS Trusts in England and the charity Age UK; as well as being issued to the general public through the Met Office website, weather forecasts on TV or radio and through social media.

How do the Cold Weather Alerts work?

The Cold Weather Alert system contains two thresholds:

  1. When mean temperature remains below two degrees Celsius for 48 hours or longer.
  2. When a region experiences heavy snow and/or widespread ice.

These thresholds have been developed in close conjunction with the Department of Health and the Health Protection Agency and only one of them needs to be breached in order for one of the following cold weather alerts to be issued:

  • Level 1 (Green) - Winter preparedness and long-term planning: This is the lowest state of alert during the winter months. At this level social and healthcare services will ensure that people are aware of and prepared for potential cold weather.
  • Level 2 (Yellow) - Alert and preparedness: Once the risk for any of the thresholds is above 60%, the Met Office will trigger a yellow alert. At this point social and healthcare services will ensure they are ready and prepared to act in order to reduce harm from prolonged periods of cold weather.
  • Level 3 (Amber) - Cold weather action: Amber alerts are issued as soon as any of the thresholds have been breached. Once in place, social and healthcare services will put in place specific actions to support those perceived to be at high-risk.
  • Level 4 (Red) - Emergency: This is the highest level of alert and is reached when cold weather is so severe and/or prolonged that its impact reaches beyond the health and social care system. It is issued on the advice of, or in collaboration with, the government and when health risks extend to the wider population.

As we explained in our recent blog, people should not be afraid to help elderly loved ones and neighbours during the winter, especially when it comes to clearing snow and ice from around their property. People are also encouraged to take the time to look in on those most at risk from the cold conditions to ensure they are warm and coping well.

If you would like advice on how to protect your health throughout the winter months, visit www.nhs.uk or call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47.

Cold weather alerts

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