There are many practical steps you can take to stay safe around the home at times of severe weather.
Clearing the snow
Clearing snow can be demanding work - only undertake the task if you are reasonably fit and do not have an underlying medical condition:
clear snow or ice early in the day if possible
wear sturdy, insulated, waterproof footwear with good gripping soles
use a shovel - there are special shovels for this task but any garden shovel will do
make a path down the middle of the area being cleared so that you will have a clear surface to walk on
Never use boiling water to clear snow as it may re-freeze and cause the formation of black ice. You can prevent ice forming by spreading salt on the area that you have cleared. When you are clearing snow it is important that you don’t create an obstacle for pedestrians or traffic. Ensure that the snow is removed to a location that won’t create a hazard
Legal advice for snow clearance and gritting
The Office of the Attorney General has advised that liability does not arise when snow is cleared from footpaths in a safe manner.
In relation to people gritting roads with grit supplied by the local authorities, the legal advice is that the issue of liability does not arise where the material is delivered, stored and used in a safe manner and does not cause hazard.
Information on your Local Authority's arrangements for dealing with water shortages can be found though your local authority's website
Be prepared – precautions against freezing temperatures
Mains water supply to premises, i.e. external stopcock - the depth from ground-level to the stopcock should not be less than 600mm. If required, seek professional advice on having the stopcock lowered or protected. The same applies to the line from the stopcock to your property. Be aware that the level may vary as it nears your property.
To prevent stopcocks freezing, open the stopcock chamber and remove any water. Fill the chamber with non-absorbent material to provide insulation. Do not use absorbent material as it too will freeze when wet. Do not leave taps running as this merely wastes a valuable resource.
If you are leaving your property unattended for a period of more than a day or two, you should shut off the water supply to the property from the external stopcock (while ensuring that any water-dependent appliances or facilities are also shut-off).
If you have a meter installed by Irish Water, a frost plug has been inserted in the meter boundary box to prevent the meter and stop-cock from freezing. If no meter is installed by Irish Water, to prevent stopcocks freezing, open the stopcock chamber and remove any water. Fill the chamber with non-absorbent material to provide insulation. Do not use absorbent material as it too will freeze when wet.
Be prepared - avoid frozen pipes
Ensure all exposed pipes are adequately insulated. This includes pipes in the attic where the attic floor has been well insulated. Other steps include:
insulate or wrap a towel around an outside tap
leave a light on in the attic
open attic trap door to allow heat in
leave heating on for longer periods at lower settings
Warmth offers the best protection against frozen pipes so keep your house warm.
Frozen mains water supply
If your supply is frozen, be cautious with use of heating systems, washing machines or other water-dependent appliances or facilities. If in doubt, contact a qualified plumber for advice.
Water supply in vacant premises and holiday homes should be shut off and drained down in preparation for winter. Keyholders should check premises regularly for possible leaks.
If a leak is detected:
turn off water supply – stop valve is usually under the kitchen sink
turn on cold taps to drain the system
turn off central heating
turn off electricity supply if leak is near electrical appliances
call a qualified plumber
Store the essentials
Have a small supply of non-perishable, easy-to-prepare foods. Keep extra supplies of essential medication in case it is difficult to get to the pharmacy.
Have an adequate supply of fuel for heating/cooking and if possible a suitable alternative should the main supply fail. Have a shovel and bag of salt to keep paths clear and safe. You should also have batteries for torches in the event of power cuts.
Have candles and matches
Candles should always be placed away from draughts in proper candleholders. Never leave a burning candle unattended. These tips are also important:
have a water container to ensure a supply of drinking water
have emergency contact numbers to hand
leave a key and contact details with neighbours or family if you are going away
Remember to insulate
Check that loft insulation is thick and in good condition. Fit your water tank with an insulation jacket or alternatively, wrap the top and sides with suitable insulation material. Other useful steps include:
repair any leaks at taps or valves
know how to turn off the water supply (usually under the kitchen sink)
fit draught excluders to your doors and windows
make sure heating equipment is well-maintained, vented correctly and working properly
ensure chimneys are cleaned at least once a year
Strengthening community links helps to improve preparedness for emergencies. Experience has shown that active preparation leads to a better response in an emergency, which in turn, leads to the best possible outcome for all concerned. This preparedness enables the community to come together to use locally identified resources (people and equipment) during an emergency affecting their community, such as the flooding and heavy snowfall of recent years.
Although the response to challenging weather events is coordinated by Local Authorities, communities have an important role to play in emergencies. Central to this is neighbours knowing each other and working together. Being prepared, knowing your neighbours and working together will help to ensure that you and your community are winter-ready in the months ahead.
REMINDER: CHECK ON YOUR OLDER RELATIVES AND NEIGHBOURS
If it’s difficult for you to get around it will be impossible for them.
Do you have their phone number(s)?
If in doubt call the Gardaí and ask them to check.
Make sure they have enough fuel, food supplies and necessary medications.
Remind them to keep their mobile phone charged.
Phone them or call around.
Communities Working Together
Irish communities have faced several extreme weather events in the recent past. These extreme weather events have caused millions of euro worth of damage and disrupted the supply of electricity and water to hundreds of thousands of households nationwide. The pandemic and its consequences have also created significant challenges.
In these circumstances, and to minimise the impact of future extreme weather events, we must prepare together and understand the practical steps that we can take to protect ourselves and our communities. We need to grow awareness of the threats we face, as well as the solutions and supports that are available to us.
Many of the steps we can take are quite simple, for example, acquiring a high visibility vest and keeping a stock of bottled water. Communities have valuable local knowledge, for instance, where black ice tends to form on roads.
As part of their Winter Service Plans, several local authorities nationwide provide salt bins and a fill of salt to community groups as well as making grit available at multiple locations. Can you volunteer to spread salt or grit on minor roads in your area to keep them open? If your area is prone to flooding, are sandbags available nearby? Do you know who to contact in the local authority to get these provisions?
We need to become better informed to be winter-ready, but more than this, we need to be proactive and act on the information that we have. It is crucial to take the time to consider our situation this winter and make the necessary preparations, individually and as communities.
Our message is simple. We need to be informed, prepare in advance and work together in our communities to be winter ready each year. Irish communities have successfully faced extreme weather events in the past, and we will continue to remain alert and prepare for future challenges moving forward. You can also contact your Local Authority to find out about community initiatives in your area.
Available Supports for Communities
Ireland has a strong tradition of volunteer activity. From checking in on vulnerable neighbours to staffing helplines, formal and informal volunteers have made a huge contribution during recent extreme weather events. For more information on how you can contribute to your community, please see www.volunteer.iee
SENIORS ALERT SCHEME (SAS)
Are seniors in your area aware of the Seniors Alert Scheme? The SAS supplies emergency alarm pendants for seniors. For further information, please visit www.pobal.ie
The Department of Rural and Community Development has provided funding under the CLÁR programme to provide support for emergency responders in disadvantaged rural areas. Details on eligibility and the application process are published on the Department’s website www.gov.ie/drcd
Libraries will offer physical and digital services and will provide services to older and vulnerable users in line with government guidelines and capacity. For more information on the services you can access at your local library, please see www.librariesireland.ie
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