How to prepare for snow and cold weather

Advice for you and your home when dealing with winter weather like snow, ice, and freezing temperatures

During the winter months, the UK can experience extreme cold events which can impact our health and vital services.
Winter weather can be unpredictable, so make sure you're prepared.

Here's our winter advice on preparing for snow, ice, and cold temperatures.

Get advice

If you’re concerned about yourself or your home, contact the British Red Cross Support line for help and advice.

Preparing for snow and winter weather

Take these steps before winter arrives, or when snow and cold temperatures are forecast:

  • Do your shopping early and stock up. Make sure you have food and other essentials like a first aid kit, batteries, and a torch.
  • Create an emergency kit. Use our advice to create your own. 
  • Check on vulnerable people. Neighbours, family, and friends may need extra support.
  • Invest in a snow shovel or a supply of gritting salt. If heavy snow is forecast, you can use them to make paths and driveways safe. Sand or cat litter can be used instead of gritting salt.
  • Get your heating system checked. A plumber can carry out a service and give you advice on how to get your heating working efficiently. Cold air can be bad for your health, and the NHS advises heating your home to at least 18 degrees.
  • Draft-proof your home. Use draft excluders on doorways and check for gaps around your windows to stop heat escaping. If they're small, you can seal up gaps yourself using caulking, or if you are unsure contact a professional. 
  • Regularly check your boiler pressure. On most boilers your pressure gauge should be between one and two bars. A service before winter arrives will help too.
  • Make sure radiators are on to prevent pipes freezing. Frozen pipes can leave your home without water and cause flooding and damage. Every room should be at least 7 degrees with the ones you're using 18 degrees or over. 
  • Clear your gutters of debris. Wind and rain can cause leaves and sticks to pile up in your gutters, potentially causing problems.
  • Plan. Snow and ice can make travelling dangerous or stop you from leaving the house, so be prepared to stay put for a few days.
  • Don’t take risks in treacherous weather. Carefully consider the journeys you plan to take and keep basic supplies in your car in case bad weather arrives early.
  • Stay informed, especially if travelling. 

Read more: How to get your home and property winter ready

Winter weather first aid

Cold weather can pose a danger to your health.

You can take a Red Cross first aid course, or download our free First Aid apps, for adults and children to help prepare.

First aid demonstration

When snow and winter weather arrives

If snow has settled or conditions are icy, follow these steps to stay safe:

  • Be careful of black ice on roads and paths. Walking on compacted snow can also be slippery. Check our basic first aid tips in case of slips or falls.
  • Be aware of falling snow from roofs or high places as it begins to melt.
  • If you’re cut off, try to stay warm and safe. Use our money-saving tips to keep you and your home warm even on the coldest winter days and nights.
  • If you’re concerned about yourself or your home, contact the British Red Cross Support line for help and advice.
  • Try to enjoy it! There’s no reason not to have fun when snow arrives but, be aware there are extra dangers involved.

More advice: 5 tips for staying safe in snow

Travelling in snow and icy conditions

If you must travel during a cold weather event, take the following precautions:

  • Check advice and the latest information from the Met Office and local authorities. Public transport and roads may be affected. Check with the national highways agency for your area and National rail for information
  • Create an emergency kit for your car. Take supplies like food, water, warm clothing, boots, a torch, de-icer, ice scraper, spade, and jump leads.
  • Charge all devices and make sure they’re working properly before you leave home. If you have one, take a battery pack with you.
  • Make sure someone knows your travel plans, route, and when you are expected to arrive.

If your car breaks down or you get stuck:

  • Stay in your car. It will get noticed before you and there’s a chance you could get lost or injured if you venture out on foot.
  • Don’t run your car’s engine for more than a few minutes at a time and make sure the exhaust isn’t blocked with snow.

More advice: travelling in heavy snow and ice

Car frozen in winter weather

Cost-effective ways to stay warm in winter

The cost-of-living crisis has made heating a home in winter difficult. Use our money-saving tips to efficiently keep yourself and your home warm.


Keeping warm this winter

More support during winter weather


Cold weather and climate change

As the average surface temperature increases globally, we are seeing a reduction in the intensity and likelihood of cold events. Extreme cold events will still occur due to global weather patterns, however, the frequency, duration, and intensity of these events are decreasing.

UK winters are projected to become warmer and wetter on average, although cold or dry winters will still occur sometimes." Met Office 


Learn more about UK winter weather