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British Red Cross urges public to stay safe as severe weather grips UK

Wednesday 22 December 2010
For further information

Henry Makiwa 0207 877 7479 or email

British Red Cross has warned the public to stay safe and care for the vulnerable this festive season, as temperatures continue to plummet and more travel disruptions are predicted. Red Cross emergency teams are responding across the UK as severe weather conditions and heavy snow continue to blanket many parts of the country. 

Martin Annis, Head of Emergency Planning at the British Red Cross said: “With thousands of people heading off for Christmas, and the severe weather effecting travel plans up and down the country, we are urging everyone to be prepared. We are also increasingly concerned about the risk to the vulnerable – such as the elderly, sick and destitute refugees and asylum seekers - as forecasts suggest the icy weather won’t be loosening its grip on the UK over the holidays.

“We have volunteers and staff supporting ambulance services, medical staff as well as stranded rail and road users, affected by the harsh weather. Due to the severity of the situation we have released £21,000 from our Disaster Fund to help with the response,” he added.

The Met Office has forecast snow to affect large parts of the UK over the holiday period, with the risk of up to 20cm of fresh snow over the high ground of southwest England and south Wales. Temperatures are also expected to drop to as low as -26C according to reports.

The British Red Cross staff and volunteers, skilled in fields as diverse as first aid, practical and emotional support, and the coordination of emergency response have in the past week been preparing for a busy time over the Christmas period.

The Red Cross emergency response includes:

  • The Red Cross in partnership with West Midlands Ambulance Service and St John’s Ambulance set up a triage centre in the centre of Birmingham to treat Christmas revellers who needed first aid. Following assessment they were either treated by our first aiders or sent onwards to hospital. The centre will be running again on New Year’s Eve.
  • In Wales, Red Cross volunteers have been transporting doctors, midwives and special care baby unit staff in and out of snow-bound hospitals in 4x4s. They have also been transporting social workers to allow them to reach vulnerable people. David Hallows, emergency response coordinator for the Red Cross in North Wales, who has personally clocked up over 900 miles in the past three days in his Red Cross Land Rover, says: “We have been working non-stop since 3pm on Friday and it’s gone really well. The feedback we’ve had from everyone we’ve picked up has been that they’re just so pleased to be able to get to work to do their jobs.”
  • In the Highlands, Islands and North East Scotland, Red Cross response teams are supporting emergency services and local authorities such as the Scottish Ambulance Service and NHS, with patient and key medical staff transport.
  • Elsewhere in Scotland there has been no snowfall for several days but the weather remains arctic with temperatures as low as -18c.We have contingency plans to react to any worsening of the weather.
  •  In London, Red Cross volunteers were at St Pancras station to provide support to travellers who were stranded at the Eurostar terminal.
  •  In Surrey, Red Cross volunteers are continuing to support South East Coast Ambulance Service with a high number of emergency 999 calls in rural areas throughout Surrey, using our 4x4 ambulance. Fully trained ambulance volunteer crews will be covering daily and evening shifts right through the busy Christmas and New Year period.
  • The Red Cross is also supporting the East Midlands Ambulance Service using a Land Rover 4x4

The Red Cross has posted advice for severe weather conditions on its website including how to respond to cold weather-related accidents.
Below are some simple tips that can be employed for a range of emergency situations, along with advice on how to cope when they do:
Hypothermia signs and symptoms may include:

• Shivering; cold to touch, pale skin
• Apathy and disorientation
• Slow and shallow breathing

Treatment for hypothermia
1. The casualty should be warmed slowly. Cover the person with blankets - and a hat, if possible - and warm the room.
2. They should be given a hot drink and some high-energy food such as chocolate.
3. Call 999 for emergency help. Remember: in elderly people, hypothermia may also be disguising the symptoms of a stroke or heart attack.

Falls – how to treat sprains or strains

It is difficult to distinguish between different bone, joint and muscle injuries. If you suspect the injury may be a fracture, or dislocated joint, then seek medical help immediately.

Strains and sprains should be treated initially by the “RICE” procedure:
R – Rest the injured part;
I –   Ice, in a pack or a cold pad should be applied on sprain;
C – Comfortable support should be provided;
E – Elevate the injured part.

For more information visit

Notes to editors

For further advice, spokespeople and interviews, please contact Henry Makiwa 0207 877 7479 or email

The British Red Cross helps people in crisis, whoever and wherever they are. We are part of a global voluntary network, responding to conflicts, natural disasters and individual emergencies.
We enable vulnerable people in the UK and abroad to prepare for and withstand emergencies in their own communities. And when the crisis is over, we help them to recover and move on with their lives.