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Winter - Staying Safe, Warm and Well

Protecting your home and possessions

With all the problems of the snow and ice, the last thing you want is the additional problem of burst or frozen water pipes. Check out our quick tips guide below to help prevent burst or frozen water pipes.

  • Ensure you have your central heating system serviced annually.  This is a legal requirement for landlords and a condition of your tenancy with Torus. A leaking radiator valve can also cause water and damp problems
  • In cold weather, check all your taps from time to time. If little or no water flows there may be frozen water in the pipes.
  • Know where to find your stop tap! Then you can cut off the flow of water if a pipe starts leaking
  • If you go away, leave the central heating on 'constant’ (set your thermostat to low) to prevent freezing. Whatever you do - do not turn it off.
  • Ask a friend, neighbour or relative to check your home while you are away. This will ensure burst pipes are spotted early and damp and water damage is minimized
  • Turn off any indoor valves on pipes that lead to taps outside your home. Then open the outside tap and leave it open to let any water drain. This ensures there is no water in the pipes to freeze.
  • Ensure you have adequate content insurance to cover the event of a flood or burst pipe.  Click here for further information on Tenants content insurance scheme.

If you have the unfortunate experience of waking up to frozen pipes you should turn on your taps, as this will relieve the pressure as the ice melts inside the pipes. You can use appliances such as a blow dryer or a heat lamp to defrost the pipe. Under no circumstances should you use a blow torch or candle. In addition, you can leave your water running a very small, slow trickle through the pipes to prevent them from freezing again.  If you have tried to defrost the pipe yourself or are unsure what to do please contact us.


Winter health & safety tips - on foot or in the car

  •  Walking in snow and ice: Always wear appropriate footwear with good soles. Avoid paths that are in the shade, if possible, delay your journey until the sun has had a chance to melt the icy areas. Handy tip: A pair of old socks worn over your shoes will help increase their grip on snow and ice.
  •  Driving in snow and ice: Don't assume that salted roads offer the same level of safety as those that are dry. Leave plenty of time for your journey. Try to avoid using minor roads wherever possible. Reduce speed when driving in ice or snow and do not drive too close to the car in front. Always drive smoothly and keep in the highest possible gear.  Handy tip: If you're stuck on ice, put your car mats under the wheels. The mats will most likely get destroyed, but it almost always works to get you out.


Keeping warm, staying safe & preventing illness

In a typical winter, temperatures are low enough to affect the health of vulnerable people. Cold snaps can happen suddenly, and rapid drops in temperature quickly affect vulnerable people.  So, it is best to be prepared before cold temperatures are forecast – ideally by the beginning of November.  Follow these tips to keep your family warm and well during cold weather:

  • Have regular hot drinks and at least one hot meal a day if possible. Eating regularly helps keep energy levels up during winter. 
  • Wear several light layers of warm clothes (rather than one chunky layer). 
  • Keep as active as possible.
  • Use only portable heating equipment that is approved for indoor use.
  • Keep your main living room at around 18-21C (64-70F), and the rest  of the house at least 16C (61F). If you can’t heat all the rooms you use, heat the living room during the day and the bedroom just before you go to sleep
  • Keep combustible materials, including furniture and curtains at least three feet away from the heat source. NEVER drape clothes over a space heater to dry.
  • Always keep an eye on heating equipment. Never leave children alone in the room where a space heater is running. Turn it off when you are unable to closely monitor it.
  • Be careful not to overload electrical circuits.
  • Make sure you have a working smoke detector in every room. Check and change batteries often.
  • Close curtains as soon as it starts to go dark.
  • Cover yourself with a blanket when watching television
  • Invest in a hot water bottle or electric blanket. But do not use them at the same time.
  • Stock up on tinned and frozen foods to reduce the need to go out during extreme cold weather
  • Ensure that you keep an adequate supply of any prescribed medication.
  • If you have a pre-payment meter for gas or electricity, ensure that you keep as much credit on the metre as your budget allows.
  • Where possible keep a watchful eye on your neighbours and if you have any concerns contact us.
  • Make sure you are maximising your income, for a free benefits check call our Money Advice Team on 0800 678 1894.


Christmas Safety Tips...

Don't forget that safety is important with your decorating. 

Electrical safety:

  • Check your Christmas tree lights conform to the British Standard. Always use an RCD on outdoor electrical equipment (that is a safety device that can save lives by instantly switching off the power).
  • Make sure you buy the right set of lights for indoor use, outdoor use, or both.
  • Before decorating, check all light sets for frayed wires, damaged sockets, or cracked insulation. If you find any defects, replace the entire set.
  • Don't overload your electrical sockets 
  • To avoid disaster, keep fresh cut trees well-watered and keep extension cords and light strings away from the water. 
  • Only light your tree when you are at home to keep a check on it and awake to enjoy it.

Fire safety:

  • Never place candles near your Christmas tree or furnishings. Don't leave them burning unattended.
  • Make sure you water your live tree - a dry tree, is a flamable tree.
  • Make sure your family and visitors staying for the festive period know what to do in an emergency. Practice a fire escape plan.
  • Decorations can burn easily - Don't attach them to lights or heaters.
  • Switch off electrical appliances when not in use, unless they’re designed to stay on. Take special care with Christmas lights. Always switch off and unplug Christmas lights before you go to bed.
  • Celebrate Christmas and New Year safely. The risk of accidents, especially in the kitchen, is greater after alcohol is consumed, enjoy yourself but be careful!
  • Most fires start in the kitchen - never leave cooking unattended.
  • If you are planning to celebrate with fireworks, store them in a metal box, read the instructions, never go back to a lit firework and keep a bucket of water nearby.
  • Make sure cigarettes or those Christmas cigars are completely extinguished.
  • Check the battery in your smoke alarm every week and use Christmas as a reminder to clean it and remove dust.
  • Keep candles, lighters and matches out of reach of children.

Take the time to check on elderly relatives and neighbours this Christmas - make sure they and their homes are fire safe.


Home security tips and advise in the run up to Christmas...

As the rate of domestic burglaries goes up at this end of the year, owing to the darker evenings and the lure of expensive Christmas presents in many people’s homes, the Police would like to issue some basic home security advice to the public.  

Common methods used by burglars to enter people’s homes:

  • Burglars gain entry via insecure doors or windows.  Burglars standing on wheelie bins that have been left out under open bedroom windows.  
  • Noticing a house is empty from there being no lights on at night, or a car is not on the driveway DIY tools or gardening tools left out in the garden being used to pry open doors or windows.  
  • Leaving keys or valuables on display where they can be seen and reached easily through open windows or doors.  
  • Items of interest to burglars are mainly jewellery, games consoles, laptops, mobile phones, wallets, handbags or car keys left lying around or in coats or jacket are just some of the high value items which burglars are looking for. 

Tips on home security: 

  • Having an alarm or CCTV fitted to your property.  In some incidences, it has allowed police to identify the burglar and provides vital evidence for the prosecution case. For example, where the burglar has travelled between towns and cities to target properties, CCTV can help in linking the offender to a numerous offences.
  • Consider outdoor planting around your house as putting plants or shrubs that have prickly thorns around the base of windows or drain pipes can deter burglars from targeting your property.
  • Gravel paths to doorways can provide an early warning when someone is approaching your property.
  • Fitting multi lever locks to patio doors makes it difficult for burglars to lift the doors out of their frames.
  • A dark house/building is vulnerable to burglary, during the winter months there is a distinct increase in the amount of burglaries during the twilight period. If you know you're home or business is empty after dark protect your property, then:
  • Use a segment timer to turn a light on in an active room (Burglars know that people don’t congregate on their stairs)
  • Use your blinds to your advantage, tilt to remove opportunity of looking in
  • Keep valuables out of view
  • Lock you windows and doors (most burglars gain access via insecure/open doors and windows)
  • Use outside lighting
  • Join a Homewatch/Businesswatch scheme - look after your neighbours

If anyone has any information concerning criminal activity in their area or sees any suspicious activity, they should contact the police or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.  


Christmas Energy Saving Tips

Energy Tips to save money during the festive period, whilst still having a lovely Christmas:

  • Consider using timers for the lights so they only come on at set times in the evening.
  • Make sure that you don’t put lots of items in front of radiators as it prevents the heat circulating around the room.
  • Use LED Christmas tree lights as they are more energy efficient using less electricity than standard Christmas lights.
  • Christmas lights and lighted Christmas decorations will not provide the same effect during the day as they do at night so turn them on at dusk and off before you go to bed.
  • When cooking the Christmas Dinner cut veg into smaller pieces and put the lid on the pan so the food cooks quicker.


The 'Snow Code' - Tips on Clearing Snow and Ice from Pavements or Public Spaces

The Snow Code was provided by the Department for Transport, it gives guidance about clearing snow outside property, pathways to property and public places.  The Code offers advice on how to safely clear snow and includes tips such as:

  • Don’t use hot water as this will melt the snow and may create black ice, increasing the risk of injury.
  • Clear the snow and ice early in the day.
  • Take care where you move the snow - if shovelling snow, make sure it doesn’t block paths or drainage channels.
  • Use sand or ash as a salt substitute should salt supplies run out.
  • Clear snow for those unable to do it themselves.
  • Remind people that salt from salt bins is not for private use.