A blanket of snow may look beautiful, but it also brings a host of potential dangers to homes and homeowners.
According to NHS England’s Hospital Episode Statistics, 7,128 people were admitted to hospital in 2017/18 for injuries caused by slips and falls involving ice and snow. NHBC, the UK’s leading warranty provider for new homes, is offering all home owners some tips to help keep you and your home safe this winter, inside and out:
Check your boiler and heating system
It’s good practice to get your boiler checked every year as there is nothing worse than being left without heating or hot water during periods of cold weather.
If you haven’t already done so, make an appointment with a Gas Safe registered plumber to get yours serviced. It’s also a good idea to set the central heating to a minimum of 14oC throughout the winter to help prevent frozen pipes and frost damage.
Snow and freezing weather can cause power cuts, which can be particularly miserable if they happen after dark. Make sure you have a torch or two to hand, and don’t forget to check the batteries! You may not know that you should contact your local electricity network operator for updates if you have a power cut, rather than the electricity supplier you pay your bill to.
One easy to remember number to call – 105 – will connect you to the local service who can help. Alternatively, if you are still able to access the internet, log on to www.powercut105.com for updates on when they expect to restore your power.
Coughs, colds and flu
When it’s cold and icy outside, families spend more time together indoors. The warm home environment is an ideal breeding ground for germs and viruses which can be passed around more easily. Stock up on antibacterial hand soaps and encourage all family members to wash their hands before cooking, eating or playing, and after using the bathroom.
Trim your trees
An accumulation of ice and snow on your tree branches can weigh them down, causing them to break off. Cut back any branches that could fall on to your roof or crash through your windows. Make sure your trees aren’t overhanging any power lines, but if you do need to trim them back, take caution and use any equipment safely.
The Snow Code
The Department for Transport’s Snow Code will help you stay safe outside your property this winter. And don’t worry about the stories you hear every year that if you clear snow and ice from the areas outside your home and someone slips and falls, you can be held responsible – it’s just an urban myth.
Here are some Snow Code tips for clearing your driveway, paths and pavements:
- Do it early in the day as it’s much easier to move fresh, loose snow.
- Do take care when moving the snow. Shovelling snow is a high-intensity activity that can put stress on your heart and back
- Do be mindful where you pile the snow. Clear a pathway down the middle of the area and then shovel the snow from the centre of the path to the sides. Don’t block other people’s paths or drains
- Don’t use water to thaw the snow, it might refreeze and turn to black ice
- One you’ve cleared the snow, sprinkle table or dishwasher salt over the area to stop it refreezing; a tablespoon for each square metre you clear should be enough.
- If you don’t have enough salt, use sand to provide some grip underfoot
- Offer to clear your neighbours’ paths, especially if they are elderly or disabled. Also check they have everything they need during periods of cold weather
Following the above tips will help keep you safe inside and outside your home this winter. For further guidance on how to give your home a winter health check visit NHBC’s website: http://www.nhbc.co.uk/homeowners/guidanceandadvice/.