20 November 2015

We're ready for winter - are you?

Whilst the weather remains unseasonably warm, winter could be just around the corner.

With colder temperatures forecast, staff at Brighton & Hove City Council are preparing for any sudden change in the weather and are advising residents to do the same.

Keeping the city safe and moving during severe weather is a huge operation, which takes year round planning, and ranges from ploughing and gritting up to 191 miles of roads and pavements, to protecting the most vulnerable in the city.

At the Council depot in Hollingdean, Brighton & Hove City Council’s seven gritters and ploughs are standing by, and will be out and about on all main roads and bus routes in the city, should temperatures dip below freezing. When temperatures drop the Council will pre-salt the roads to prevent ice or frost forming. Pre-salting does not stop the snow from settling unless it is fine sleet, but it helps with ploughing the snow from the roads.

The council does not have the resources to treat every road and pavement. If all Brighton & Hove’s roads were laid end to end they would reach past Gretna Green in Scotland and the city’s pavements would stretch to the south of France.

“We can't treat every road, but prioritise those which will help keep the city moving as much as possible such as busy areas, bus routes and emergency service access,” explained Highways Asset and Network Manager, Christina Liassides.

She added that a gritting map on the Council’s website shows the main gritting routes and grit bin locations.

The Council’s 420 grit bins, located in the coldest, steepest areas of the city, are also full and ready for the public to use. However, residents are asked to use sparingly as the bins will only be refilled during very severe winter conditions.

During last year’s mild winter 1,100 tonnes of salt were used compared with nearly 2,300 in the 2013/14 winter.

During the most severe weather more than 60 members of staff will be working on the Council’s winter service.

‘Winter workers’ include:

  • Highway operators, who plan and manage the entire service including buying the salt and grit.
  • Cityclean staff driving the gritting vehicles, and shovelling and sweeping snow and ice off the pavements.
  • Cityparks workers who use tractors to help move large grit piles around the city to where it is most needed.
  • Environment Contact Centre advisors, based at the Cityclean depot, who give information and advice to hundreds of residents.
  • Communications staff who manage news and information through the web, wave, Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, and press releases to local media.
  • Members of the Emergency Planning & Resilience team who coordinate other Council services such as Public Health, and Adult Social Care to support vulnerable people.

The Council’s winter service team also supports residents and community groups, who want to set up schemes to support one another during severe weather.

These groups include the Woodingdean Resilience Team where plans are already well underway. Dee Simson from the Team explained: “Winter planning work starts in October and includes making sure the grit bins are full, ordering more stock if needed and compiling a list of volunteers – from those willing to shovel snow, to 4x4 drivers able to provide transport and run errands.

“We make sure we know where vulnerable people are and identify the help they may need, such as transport to appointments, delivery of prescriptions and other essential items. It’s all about knowing who needs help and how we can help them.

“When snow falls in Woodingdean, the first thing that happens is that buses stop. We have to let people know that the buses aren’t running, also working with the Police when the Falmer road gets cut off and making sure signage is in place” added Dee. “Everyone has to talk to each other and share information, for resilience planning to work well.”

Councillor Gill Mitchell, chair of the Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee said: “Council employees are making a huge effort to be prepared in an emergency this year, but there is only so much we can do.

“It is vitally important that communities come together and help one another when there is severe weather, from helping to clear snow to co-ordinate information and reaching vulnerable people.”

She added that residents are encouraged to keep an eye on elderly and vulnerable people who may have needs around food, medicine or care. The Council’s Adult Social Care Team can help if they have problems getting the services they need.

For more information, and to find out how you can help your community visit our winter maintenance and winter weather pages. You can also follow @BrightonHoveCC for updates and use the twitter hashtag #BHSnow.