Are you ready for snow?

WHAT winter warmers do you need this year? When the chill of the season kicks in, features editor TRACEY SPARLING finds out what kit you need to fight the freeze.

By Tracey Sparling

WHAT winter warmers do you need this year? When the chill of the season kicks in, features editor TRACEY SPARLING finds out what kit you need to fight the freeze.

A FLURRY of snow is fun; we love it when it flutters down to grace our county with a pristine, sparkling blanket.

Remember that joyous feeling of opening the curtains to discover a world transformed overnight?

We love the novelty - that is until we have to crank the heating up another notch, and venture out on the dark icy roads to drive to work. This charming photograph from February 1963 shows school children who had to abandon their bus on the steep slopes of Thunder Lane, Norwich, giving a helping hand to a motorist whose car failed to 'make the grade.'

Today, equipping your house and car so you can cope if you suffer a similar disaster this winter, can be a minefield in itself. What's necessary and what's not for when the snow finally strikes? Do you really need to climb in the roof to check your lagging, or carry a shovel in your car boot?

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Nobody can say whether you'll use all the kit that is recommended, but after reading this, at least you can't say you weren't warned!

AT HOME:

YOUR home may be your castle, but you don't want it to be as draughty as a medieval fortress.

Or to suffer burst pipes, or broken down heating in the grip of winter.

It's also a health risk to neglect the comfort factor of your home. Last winter, more than 25,000 older people died as a result of cold-related illnesses. Everyone over 60 should claim the Winter Fuel Payment

and there are many other benefits and grants to which you may be entitled. This is £200 for most households with someone aged 60 or over, plus an extra £100 for households with someone aged 80 or over. Call SeniorLine to find out more on 0808 800 6565.

There are also many free products and services designed specifically for older people, such as the British Gas 'here to HELP' programme. Contact your energy suppliers to find out what they offer.

Campaigners are also warning that children is being put at risk by cold homes this winter. The warning comes as part of the Warm Homes Campaign, the annual winter awareness campaign, organised by fuel poverty charity National Energy Action. The Warm Homes Campaign 2006 runs throughout this month and is organised in association with Powergen, part of E.ON UK.

NEA warns that cold, damp homes affect children's health increasing the risk of common ailments like colds and flu, respiratory infections such as bronchitis and making them more vulnerable to allergies. Educational attainment can suffer too, with children finding it difficult to complete homework in homes where only one room may be adequately heated and also more liable to school absence due to cold-related illnesses. Children may also feel too embarrassed to invite friends back to a cold home.

A hot water bottle or electric blanket, to warm up your bed. Never use the two together as this can be dangerous.

Warm clothing

Draught-proofing strips for windows and doors. Plastic film or sheeting makes a cheap alternative, or even newspaper to plug draughty doorframes.

Thick curtains on front and back doors.

Basic foods, stock up your cupboard to save you having to go out to the shops on very cold days.

Lagging, to fit round pipes, tanks and cisterns to prevent freezing.

Oil and wood supply if your home runs on these fuels.

If you have no water during a severe frost:

Check with your eighbours. If they have a supply your pipes may be frozen.

Check them for signs of splitting. If your pipes are damaged a burst will only become apparent when the frozen water in the pipes thaws and can escape.

Shut off your internal stop tap and drain your system by flushing the toilet and opening cold taps over sinks/baths etc. Also switch off the central heating and any water heating appliances

If your pipes are intact, open the taps and thaw the pipes with hot water bottles or heated cloths. Take care as a damaged pipe may spray water as it thaws. Always start thawing the pipe at the end nearest the tap. Never apply a direct flame. Once you've thawed your pipes and you're satisfied that no leakage is occurring, turn off the taps and slowly open the stop tap.

Check your pipes when they are under pressure, then switch on water heating appliances, boilers , immersion heaters etc. Do not do this until you are sure the system has thawed out. After freezing has occurred there is a risk of explosion if heat is suddenly applied.

All the pipes within your boundary are your responsibility. If in doubt, seek expert advice from a plumber.

1

Make sure you know where your main stopcock is - if you do suffer flooding it is important to shut off the water supply quickly.

2

Remember to check in on friends, family and neighbours to ensure they are keeping warm

3.

Insulate your home. Double glazing, loft and cavity wall insulation all trap warmth in the home.

Sleep with your windows closed. Cold air on the head at night has been shown to increase blood pressure.

4

Get outside to repair gates and fences, to prevent them being vulnerable to storm damage.

Also make sure drains and gutters are clear of any debris, and that nearby trees are cut back to minimise risk of falling branches damaging your home.

5

Check your boiler has been serviced and if not, book a professional to do it.

6

Eat for warmth. Regular hot meals and hot drinks provide warmth and energy. Even if you don't feel like cooking, try to have at least one proper meal a day.

7

Dress appropriately. Several layers of thin clothing, for example, a shirt or blouse, thin jersey and cardigan, will keep you warm by trapping air between them. Wool, polyester or fleecy synthetic fibres are usually warmer. Thermal underwear can help beat the chill. Wearing the right clothing to bed is as important as wrapping up outdoors.

8

Keep moving. Any activity, even vacuuming gets circulation going and makes you feel warmer.

If you have difficulty walking, moving your arms and legs and wiggling your toes and fingers will help.

If it's very cold outside or icy underfoot, try to keep active indoors rather than venturing outside.

9

Keep your home at the right temperature. Hang thermometers in the living room and bedroom and keep temperatures between 21 and 24 degrees centigrade (70 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit). Keep at least one room in the house well-heated.

10

A dripping tap is a sign of a problem and should be fixed, even a gentle trickle of water could freeze and block the pipe.

IN THE CAR:

Dave Macintyre, the Automobile Association's Patrol of the Year, said the number of breakdowns nearly double during particularly cold spells.

He ran his own garage for 23 years before joining the AA two years ago.

He said: “Modern engines don't need tucking-up with a blanket on cold nights but it can help if it's an old car. Make sure you hang something from the steering wheel to remind you, though - a call to the fire brigade isn't the ideal start to the day!”

Dave added: “On colder days be particularly careful on tree-lined roads - the trees prevent the sun's warmth from reaching the road, which may still be icy when all around has thawed. In fog, I usually drive with the window down and the radio off - often you can hear problems like cars ahead going over bumps at low speed before you see them.

“On snow and ice just do everything very slowly because it can go wrong very quickly.”

Barbara Cadd from Halfords added: “We may have been lulled into a false sense of security by the lingering mild temperatures over the last few months, but the unpredictable climate in the UK means it is vital to be prepared if you want to stay safe on the road. Hazardous driving conditions are almost certain as the dark nights draw in, and so it is really important to increase visibility to ensure that you can see and be seen. When the weather eventually does turn you'll be glad you planned ahead and prepared yourself and your car.”

Weblink: www.halfords.com

Torch with spare batteries and bulb

Warning triangle

Reflective vest or jacket

Spare warm clothing; including stout boots or shoes

Food and water for emergencies

Mobile phone, fully charged

A spade

Sacks or old bits of carpet to put under driving wheels if they won't grip

De-icer and scraper

Tow rope

Blanket

First Aid kit

N

Halfords is offering a free Five Point Car Health Check as part of its award winning We'll Fit It Service. A trained fitter in store, usually available without appointment, will check your lights and indicators, windscreen wipers, screenwash level, engine oil level and battery condition. They'll safely dispose of your old battery should you need to replace it. All you have to pay for is the fitting and products if required.

Halfords Emergency Breakdown Kit priced £26.49 (Was £39.99, save £13.50) includes a warning triangle, torch, tow rope, cotton gloves, booster cables, tyre pressure gauge and a useful foot pump in a nylon bag for easy storage.

Halfords Torch Tool Kit, at £7.99, is a nifty gadget which will fit neatly into the boot of your car. The torch features a twin flash light and warning reflector for maximum visibility, plus inside you'll find a selection of useful high quality tools and even an in-car charger so you will never have to worry about the batteries running out!

Stopping distances are ten times longer in ice and snow.

If you:

Aquaplane - hold the steering wheel lightly and lift off the throttle until the tyres regain grip.

Face a flood - only drive through water if you know how deep it is. Drive slowly and steadily to avoid creating a bow wave. Keep the engine revving by slipping the clutch, otherwise water in the exhaust could stall the engine.

Break down in heavy rain - don't prop the bonnet open while you wait for the patrol to arrive. The engine will be more difficult to start again if the electrics are all rain-soaked

Skid - brake gently and repeatedly, and de-clutch.

1

Add anti-freeze to the radiator.

It only costs a few pounds but a cracked engine block will cost hundreds of pounds to repair.

If you're not sure what type of antifreeze is in your car, take it to a dealer because types must not be mixed.

2

Look at your tyres. The legal minimum of 1.6mm of tyre tread is less than twice the thickness of a CD but during the winter a minimum of 3mm (around 3 CDs) is essential to clear water. Consider changing to winter tyres - these have a higher silicone content which prevent hardening at lower temperatures to give better grip.

3

Check the handbook, to know what your car can and cannot do in the snow. You should know if it has anti-lock brakes and traction control so you don't panic if strange noises start when you brake on ice.

4

Check you have a jack and wheel brace, that they work and that you know how to change a wheel if necessary.

5

Use air conditioning for faster demisting and to reduce condensation on cold windows

6

Wash windscreen and other windows - if your vision is obscured through dirt, snow or even sticker-infested car windows you could face a hefty fine. Top up screenwash.

7

Make sure that wipers are switched off in the park position when leaving the car where there's risk of freezing. Blades frozen to the screen or the wiper motor could be damaged when you turn the ignition on.

8

Check that all lights are working and that headlights are clean and aimed correctly. Switch off fog lights when visibility improves as they can dazzle other road users and obscure your brake lights.

9

Keep the number plates clean as you can be fined if they are dirty and illegible.

10

Keep the windscreen from misting up, soak a cloth in pure washing up liquid then let it dry. Now wipe this cloth on the inside of the windows and it will stop them misting up - go on, try it in the bathroom, it works!

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