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Rural communities to prepare for winter


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Make sure you are prepared for winter and identify potential health and safety risks in plenty of time that’s the rallying call for communities across the South West from one rural insurer.

With two successive severe winters, regional insurance firm Cornish Mutual is encouraging people to think ahead and take preventative measures before potentially tough weather conditions wreak havoc in the Westcountry again.

Heavy snow has fallen and icy conditions have already hit many parts of the country this month and in Surrey, the County Council has recruited a team of 50 local farmers in advance to help clear the roads using their tractors and ploughs if necessary.

Cornish Mutual is now urging villages and towns in Cornwall, Devon, Somerset and Dorset to work together to come up with solutions that help to minimise disruption in rural areas.

“Help each other out and do what you can in advance,” says Alan Goddard, managing director of the Truro-based insurer. “In extreme weather conditions, communities can do a lot to help themselves and others. Look at last year and remember what caught you out. Get ready and anticipate what might happen check your property or vehicles that might be particularly vulnerable to bad weather.

“Make sure that your neighbours are prepared, particularly elderly residents. Devon County Council has a snow warden scheme in place, where a dedicated person in each community or parish delivers advice, training and salt to volunteers what a great idea!”

He adds, “Although we’ve just experienced the warmest November for many years, don’t let that lull you into a false sense of security. It is always a really good idea to think ahead and prepare for the worst. We must not forget that this time last year dozens of rural villages were cut-off with sub-zero temperatures and 30 centimetres of snow falling across much of the region.”

Although the Met Office is not predicting snowfall before the end of December, Cornish Mutual, which has around 23,000 Members in rural communities, says farmers should also join forces.

Mr Goddard says contingency planning with neighbouring farmers is a good idea, “We know that in the agricultural industry there are already tight-knit groups farmers are used to working together as part of the community, this is what they do best. Sharing resources can help to ensure that your livelihood is not interrupted.

“Check that you have got enough feed and bedding supplies for livestock and consider back-up plans. Think about securing and maintaining access, water, fuel and power during freezing conditions; do you need a generator as well as emergency supplies and extra storage areas?”

In Scotland, farmers and local authorities united last year to clear snow in remote parts of the country to ensure enough feed could be delivered for livestock.

Mr Goddard adds, “Think about your stock and whether you would be able to get to them or move them in deep snow, particularly in remote areas. Have you got a safe and accessible area where animals can be moved in bad weather? It is also a good idea to check that your vehicles have been properly maintained and serviced now in particular, think about snow-clearing equipment and stockpiling salt and grit to keep your farm accessible.”

Deep snow on roofs can result in damage or the building collapsing and Cornish Mutual says farmers should think about health and safety risks, before clearing snow or undertaking repairs.

Rob Pierce, Principal Inspector of Agriculture for the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), says, “Working at height is high risk work and it becomes even more so with snow and ice to contend with. In inclement weather, the pressure may be on to get jobs done quickly but stop and think first. Ask yourself if the work can actually be done from the ground. If not, make sure you’ve got the right kit or get a trained person to do the job for you.

“Remember that you don’t have to be very high for the consequences of a fall to be serious. Deaths and injuries have occurred from falls less than two metres. This winter, make the promise to yourself and your family to come home safe.”

The insurer also recommends that people review their insurance cover to make sure that they are adequately covered for severe weather and storm damage over the winter months. For more information visit

For more information from the Health and Safety Executive visit

For more information on Devon County Council’s snow warden scheme visit Cornwall Council also has dedicated snow and ice pages on its website


Cornish Mutual Although staying true to its origins in agriculture (around two thirds of Cornwall’s farmers are Members), Cornish Mutual now provides farm, household, commercial, events and personal accident insurance to Members throughout the rural communities of Cornwall, Devon, Somerset and Dorset. The company has been established for over 100 years. For more information visit

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