Risk alert – Preparing Yourself, Your Home and Your Business for Winter Storms

With Debi, Elin, Fergus, Gerrit and Henk already under our belt this winter, are we likely to be hit by any further storms?

High winds, plummeting temperatures, heavy rainfall and snow combine to create a dangerous scenario that can impact your home, your business, and yourself.

Ensure you are fully prepared for further upcoming storms this winter with our top tips.

Planning ahead for all kinds of storms

There is some advice which applies to all types of storms such as to:

  • Sign up for alerts from the Met Office.
  • Stay indoors where possible and only travel if necessary.
  • Create an emergency storm kit containing essentials for when you’re away from the home, e.g., phone, portable phone charger, food, water, medicine, first aid kit, blankets and cosy clothes, torch, etc.

Preparing for heavy rain and floods

According to scientists, as a result of climate change, flooding is becoming more and more frequent in the UK and impacting more people.[1] As a result of Storm Babet alone, over 2,146 properties were reported to have been flooded, however the Environment Agency have confirmed that nearly 100,000 properties were protected from the flooding.[2]   Without having the appropriate flood prevention measures in place, it may have been the case that many more properties would have been flooded.

Do what you can to protect your home and business from flooding by making a flood plan in advance.

Top tips for planning ahead for heavy rain and floods

  • Sign up for the UK government’s flood warnings, and keep abreast of warnings on the radio/news/web, etc.
  • Invest in property protection products such as flood barriers, air brick covers and sandbags. It’s worth investigating if your local authority supplies sandbags and to factor in supply and demand.
  • Turn off gas, electricity, and water supplies if it’s safe to do so; never touch an electrical switch if you’re standing in water.
  • Clear gutters of fallen leaves and debris to avoid further clogged drains.
  • Move family and pets to safety.
  • Protect your belongings:
    • Move important items upstairs or to a safe place in your property, starting with cherished items and valuables, then furniture and furnishings.
    • For businesses, move stock and equipment to higher floors if possible.
    • Move all vehicles to higher ground if it is safe to do so.

 Preparing for cold temperatures

On Wednesday 29 November 2023, parts of the UK experienced the coldest November night since 2010. Temperatures plummeted to a bitter – 8°C (18F) in the Scottish Highlands and -7.2°C (19F) in Cumbria.[3] As we prepare ourselves to brace another cold winter, we must also prepare our home and business too.

Top tips for planning ahead for cold temperatures

  • Ahead of winter, try to invest in making your home as energy efficient as possible when it comes to heating. By draught-proofing your house you can reduce heat loss.
  • Weatherproof your home by insulating your windows, doors, walls, and attic. You can also install radiator insulation and pipe insulation, hang thick curtains, block off your chimney, and add draught excluders to your doors and letterbox.
  • Despite the cost of living, try to keep heating on frost-protection at minimum. Even if your pipes are insulated, they are still at risk of freezing and bursting, which could prove costly.
  • Set up fans to blow heat into cold rooms and open cabinet doors so warm air can reach the pipes under sinks. If you have exposed pipes inside closets or pantries, leave doors open.
  • Clear gutters of fallen leaves and debris to avoid overflowing water building up and becoming a slip hazard. Similarly, disconnect garden hoses from outdoor faucets.
  • Grit paths to reduce the likelihood of slips and trips.

 Preparing for high winds

High winds (or gales) are the most common cause of damage and disruption in the UK.[4] They can cause serious damage to property (both homes and commercial properties) and vehicles. Strong winds can also cause significant travel interruptions in the way of blocked roads and railway lines, cancelled flights, and, in some cases, can even cause power outages.

Top tips for planning ahead for high winds

  • Repair any roof leaks and check for loose tiles/flashing which might fly off. Also check satellites/aerials are properly secured and gutters/downpipes.
  • Ideally, vehicles should be parked in a garage, but if this isn’t possible, park away from buildings/trees/walls/fences.
  • Cut away tree branches that could fall on your home, car, or business premises.
  • Secure any loose items that live outside of the building (garden furniture, bins etc).
  • Inspect fences/sheds to ensure there are no loose panels that could be damaged or cause damage to yours or neighbouring properties or injury.
  • Lock all doors and windows including outhouses, sheds, and garages.

What to do after a storm

  • Be careful around flood water: think currents, hidden debris, contamination, and live cables.
  • Take plenty of pictures. For example, take photos of the water at its highest point (include the date on each wall too), or of any damaged buildings or stock before clean-up/temporary repairs begin.
  • Keep all damaged building materials, stock, furnishings, etc. Make a list of everything that has been damaged in the storm.
  • Approach buildings and outbuildings with caution as structural damage may not be visible to the naked eye. Also check trees for any obvious damage and consult your local authority if assistance is needed.
  • DON’T ATTEMPT REPAIRS WHILST THE STORM IS ONGOING. If you’ve enlisted the help of professionals to do emergency repairs, request full itemised quotes or invoices.
  • Write down a description of the overall state of the property and keep detailed notes of any actions you have taken.
  • Never use the gas or electrical supply in a flooded property until a qualified person checks everything and tells you it’s safe.

Driving in storms

  • Listen out for local news bulletins to keep up to date with road closures and forecasts.
  • Try to fill up with fuel before you travel, as getting stuck in traffic will increase your fuel consumption. Remember, with the lights, heater and wipers switched on, your fuel economy will be reduced even further.
  • Check that your windscreen wiper blades are fully functional. If front and/or back blades are not up to scratch, get them replaced.
  • On an older vehicle, it might be advisable to upgrade to so-called ‘aero’ wipers, which are more effective at removing water from the windscreen, particularly at speed.
  • Check that your tyres are of the recommended legal tyre tread depth and air pressure so you can be sure you have a safe amount of grip on the roads.
  • Top up antifreeze.
  • Create an emergency car kit containing a phone and portable phone charger, blankets and cosy clothes, first aid kit, medication, food, water, torch, and a scraper or shovel.

 Policyholder dos and don'ts

Insurers recommend mitigating losses to protect your property. Make sure you only carry out emergency repairs and keep invoices for consideration. Take photos of the damage to support this and photos of the emergency repair.

To help you get back to normal as quickly as possible, try to obtain two quotes from a local tradesperson to repair the damage. Please ask the tradesperson/company to provide a quotation on headed paper with a breakdown of costs the labour costs, materials, and cause of the damage.

In the event of an emergency, please refer to the 24/7 contact details in your policy documents or get in touch with your local Towergate adviser.


[1] https://www.redcross.org.uk/stories/disasters-and-emergencies/uk/what-are-floods#:~:text=Scientists%20have%20warned%20that%2C%20as,is%20going%20happen%20more%20frequently.

[2] https://www.gov.uk/government/news/rolling-news-story-flooding-from-storm-babet

[3] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-67564025

[4] https://www.birmingham.gov.uk/info/50196/specific_risks/1734/dealing_with_severe_weather/2#:~:text=Gales%20are%20the%20most%20common,down%20power%20and%20telephone%20cables.