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Cold, snow and ice


What are the risks?

Scotland's winters often bring snow and ice, which can cause frozen or burst pipes, blocked drains, localised flooding during thaws, treacherous conditions out and about, risks of hypothermia and isolation.

There's plenty you can do to prepare for and deal with cold weather.  


What can I do?

 Before snowfall/ice

  • In cold weather, make sure you keep as warm as possible, particularly wearing layers, and keeping at least one room in the house heated.
  • Review your household emergency kit and make sure you have everything you need
  • Don't park your car or bikes, or place garden furniture, underneath locations where snow and ice may accumulate on roofs
  • Ensure you have a supply of salt or grit
  • Check on vulnerable neighbours or relatives and help them to prepare.
  • If you are over 75 and use heating oil, you may be eligible to register for the free Cold Weather Priority Initiative, which prioritises members for deliveries of heating oil in times of shortage or extreme cold weather.  
  • Find your stop valve.  An example of where a stop valve can be located can be viewed by clicking on Scottish Water's how to find your stop valve film.
  • Protect your pipes.  Making sure pipes and water tanks are properly insulated is one of the simplest, and cheapest, things you can do to help protect your property from the cold.  To find out more, watch Scottish Water's short film about insulation


During snowfall/icy conditions

  • Check the weather forecast, and keep up to date with the latest weather warnings, travel advice and road conditions
  • Take extra care when cycling, walking or driving 
  • If you lose power, call 105 - its free of charge and will put you through to your local network operator who can give you help and advice.  Find more advice on our dedicated loss of utilities page.
  • If you need to evacuate (and if it's safe and time permits) turn off the water and electricity, grab your emergency kit, and secure your premises
  • Stay off frozen waterways
  • If you are out walking, such as returning home from a night out, make sure someone knows your route and when you should be expected at your destination. This is especially important if you are walking home alone.
  • If your pipes freeze, find the stop valve and turn it off immediately.  Open all cold taps to drain the system, but never turn on the hot taps because if you have a hot water cylinder, this may collapse if the pipes leading to it are frozen. Call a licensed plumber if you are in any doubt about what to do.

If your pipes burst, find the stop valve which controls the water supply entering your home. If you suspect you have a burst pipe, turn off the water supply immediately.

If a pipe has burst in your property you can make a temporary repair using putty or a repair clamp, which can be bought from most DIY outlets. However, any temporary repair needs to be replaced as soon as possible by a permanent repair, carried out by a licensed plumber. 



After snowfall/ice

  • If you are fit, well and able, clear and grit paths and pavements (clearing fresh snow is easiest - avoid using hot water, which could quickly turn to ice)
  • Make sure that any vulnerable neighbours or relatives are safe and help them make arrangements for any repairs
  • Before attempting to thaw out your pipes, check for leaking joints or bursts.  If there are none, and if it is safe to do so, then gently heat any frozen sections with a heated cloth wrapped around the pipe.  Never apply a direct flame or attempt to thaw pipes by switching on your immersion heater or central heating boiler.


Where can I find out more?

Scottish Water has further winter advice on their website.

If you are concerned about flooding, keep informed by signing up to SEPA's free Floodline direct warning service and take action if required. Follow SEPA's advice on preparing for flooding and what to do if you are flooded.

Remember to keep up to date with the latest forecasts and weather warnings


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Storms and strong winds

Rain and flooding