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Severe cold weather advice

Practical steps

  • To prevent freezing of internal pipes it is recommended that you turn off your water supply to prevent pipes from bursting. Locate the stop-cock inside your home, this is usually under the kitchen sink. Also, know the location of the stop-cock outside of your home, if you cannot find it, contact South West Water.
  • Keep torches (and any batteries) to hand in case lighting fails or you need to switch off power.
  • Keep important emergency numbers near your home. Such as a 24-hour plumber and an emergency salvage and clean-up company.  They are usually listed under 'Carpet and Upholstery Cleaners' in directories.
  • Check your buildings and contents insurance details. Most will be pleased for you to arrange damage limitation with plumbers and cleaners yourself. Note any emergency contact telephone numbers.
  • If your house has any exposed pipes, lag them with thick material, old blankets etc. If lofts are very cold, leave trap doors open.
  • If you are away from your house overnight or for any long period, leave the heating system on a low setting to prevent pipes freezing. If practical, switch off water and drain pipes.
  • Ensure everyone living in your home knows where the water stop cock and electricity mains switch, are located.
  • If you have a battery radio check it and ensure you have spare batteries.
  • If you use candles, electric blankets, or an open fire, be aware of the hazards and view safety information to prevent a fire in your home
  • Listen to local radio for advice and updates
  • School closures
  • Traffic and road disruptions
  • Public 'Helplines'

Switch on - Tune in - Stay listening

  • Read notices and advice from the local press, libraries, Age Concern etc, about welfare support available.  As well as any cold weather payments scheme.

If you think a pipe is frozen, but has not burst:

  • Contact a plumber or if it is safe try to thaw the affected pipe using a hair dryer or hot water bottle (Do not use a naked flame to do this). Be aware of the dangers of electricity and water.
  • Store some water, for personal and toilet needs, for when you have to switch the mains water off later.

If you find a burst pipe, or have water dripping:

  • First switch off your electricity at the mains - but if there is any danger of mains switch being wet seek advice first. Do not touch any light or power fittings until mains has been disconnected.
  • Turn off water at the stop-cock.
  • Phone for a plumber, and if extensive damage is likely, phone your house insurance emergency number for advice. Or get in touch with an emergency salvage and clean-up company. Remember you will have to pay for these services if you have no insurance cover.
  • Think about the effects of no water or electricity in your house - if you have problems - ask neighbours or family for help.
  • No matter how bad the situation. Ensure the safety of people before property. Call the Fire and Rescue Service if you face a flooding situation which you cannot cope with.
  • Check your house now and also after a cold spell, before the thaw sets in.
  • Be good neighbours and check people living around you.

This advice has been provided by the Resilience and Emergency Management team.