David Miller: Hope for a mild winter but be prepared for the worst

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A campaign urging Scotland to get ready for the coming winter might seem like stating the blindingly obvious. But research has shown just how short our memories can be when it comes to unpleasant experiences caused by severe weather.

The second Ready For Winter? campaign, launched this week, is being delivered by the British Red Cross in partnership with the Scottish Government. Its aim is to help the people of Scotland prepare for extreme weather.

The Arctic winters of 2010 and 2011 are, for a worryingly large number, a distant memory. The hours spent trapped in cars by heavy snow and ice as we tried to get home from work have been consigned to the furthest recesses of our minds.

Being unable to get to the shops for food and other essential supplies is not something we want to dwell on. After all, last winter wasn’t so bad, was it?

It was if you were one of the thousands of people whose power and water supplies were cut off by hurricane force winds.

It was if your house or business was flooded out as normally placid streams were turned into raging, destructive forces by torrential downpours.

Despite all this, joint research carried out by the Red Cross and the Scottish Government showed that the majority of Scots are still unprepared for severe weather.

Many people feel particularly concerned about power cuts or the loss of other vital services. But they’re not prepared for that 

The vast majority of car owners think they are doing enough to prepare for poor driving conditions with just an ice-scraper and some de-icer.

The Red Cross is an emergency response organisation with vast experience of looking after people in all sorts of crises. Perhaps best known for international disaster relief, we deal with even more emergencies at home. We refuse to ignore people in crisis.

In the grand scheme of things, running out of bread or medication or suffering burst pipes might be considered more of a minor inconvenience than a full-scale emergency.

Try telling that to someone who is alone, vulnerable and housebound because of severe weather.

We can’t legislate for the weather. But we can be prepared to withstand it and make our lives easier and much more pleasant. Ready For Winter? is about helping you to do that.

It’s about providing advice and information. It’s not about telling you what you MUST do. It’s about telling you what you CAN do.

By taking a few simple steps at home, on the move and in the community we can all make a difference.

For practical advice and help on how to prepare for all kinds of severe weather, visit www.redcross.org.uk/preparescotland or www.readyscotland.org

• David Miller is British Red Cross operations director for East Scotland

At home

You could have:

• List of emergency contact numbers

• Battery-operated torch and spare batteries (or a wind-up torch)

• Battery-operated radio and spare batteries (or a wind-up radio)

• Any essential medication, some toiletries and a first aid kit

• Three days’ supply of bottled water and ready-to-eat food that keeps

• Copies of important documents like insurance policies and birth certificates

• Pencil, paper, penknife and whistle

• Spare keys to your home and car

• Spare glasses or contact lenses

• If needed, baby and pet supplies.

On the move

You could have:

• Suitable clothes for the weather. These could be winter boots with grips, warm clothing or waterproofs

• Ready-to-eat food, a warm drink in a flask and bottled water

• Mobile phone and charger

• Any essential medication

• Spare glasses or contact lenses

• Cash and credit cards

• List of emergency contact numbers

• If needed, baby and pet supplies.

In the commumity

You could:

• Check on your neighbours, family and friends, especially those who live on their own

• Clear snow or ice from pathways of those who can’t do it themselves

• Learn first aid

• If you have care responsibilities,

think about who will help anyone you normally look after if you are stranded

• Visit redcross.org.uk/volunteer to find out more about becoming a volunteer worker for the Red Cross.