Preparing for severe wintry conditions

Prepare for winter conditions
For most people, when the clocks go back it signals the start of winter.  For some, especially if you are older or have older relatives, it can be a more difficult time when you may need a bit of extra help or support.

Royal Voluntary Service offers a range of services designed to help and support people at home and keep them connected. Our volunteers provide transport, help with shopping or someone to drop round for a chat on a winter's day. 

We also arrange Lunch Clubs and other Social Activities to help people stay in touch and keep active during the winter and throughout the year.  For more information on these services, please take a look at our Our services section.

There are lots of things you can do to keep healthy and well in winter, and we've developed top tips of things to consider and ways to prepare for winter. 

We hope that people with concerns about wintry conditions, carers and families, find this guide useful. Print this page to give to someone you know or use the share button on the right of this page.

Go to or, for more advice and links to other sources of information.

Prepare for bad weather

    Keep an eye on weather forecasts, particularly severe weather warnings from the Met Office.

    • Stock up on store cupboard basics such as soup, tinned fish and long life milk in case you can’t get out of your home for a few days.
    • Nominate a friend or neighbour who can collect essentials such as prescriptions on your behalf.
    • Keep a list of useful and emergency contacts by your phone.
    • Know where your stopcock and gas meter are located.
    • Make sure your pipes are adequately lagged and your roof properly insulated.
    • Keep torches, a battery-powered radio and spare batteries where they’re easy to find in the dark in case of power cuts.

    Stay safe

    • Ensure that only Gas Safe registered engineers work on your gas appliances. Illegal gas fitters can put your life at risk.
    • Always check the engineers' Gas Safe Register ID card.
    • Make sure gas appliances have a regular service and a gas safety check every 12 months.
    • Look out for any warning signs that your gas appliances aren't working correctly eg lazy yellow or orange flames instead of crisp blue ones, black marks on or around the appliance and too much condensation in the room.
    • Know the signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning - headaches, dizziness, breathlessness, nausea, collapse and loss of consciousness.
    • Install an audible carbon monoxide alarm.

    Stay well

    • Don’t take any risks in bad weather. If you have to go out, make sure you wear shoes with a good grip.
    • Try to eat a balanced diet and eat small portions at regular intervals throughout the day.
    • Drink plenty of fluids.
    • If you can, get up and move around. If your mobility is more limited, do some chair exercises to help you stay warm and active.
    • Have your flu jab - book your appointment now if you haven’t already done so.
    • Good hand hygiene can prevent the spread of viruses.

    Stay warm

    • If eligible, join the Priority User Register of your energy distributor to ensure you receive support during prolonged power outages.
    • Have a hot drink regularly and if you find moving about difficult, have a flask handy.
    • Have your heating system checked every year and consider installing thermostatic valves on radiators in the rooms you use the most.
    • Ask about any benefits, grants and discounts you might be entitled to such as pension credits, winter fuel payments and insulation.
    • Wear warm clothes in layers.

    Stay in touch

    • Know how to contact your neighbours by phone – it’s easy to lose touch in the winter when people aren’t out and about as much. 
    • Continue to go to your social activities with friends or at the local community centre. If you can’t get out for any reason, call them to let them know and ask to keep in touch by phone.
    • If you can, get a mobile phone (as it does not rely on your electricity supply) and keep it charged. 
    For more information about staying safe, healthy and warm this winter, see our guides on managing minor winter ailments and the flu vaccination.
    Please exercise your common sense when considering this guide and whether to take any of the steps that may be suggested in it. Whilst we have taken reasonable care to ensure that any factual information is accurate and complete, most of the information in this guide is based on our views and opinions (and sometimes the views and opinions of the people or organisations we work with). As a result, we cannot make any promises about the accuracy or the completeness of the information and we don’t accept any responsibility for the results of your reliance on it.

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