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On the weather and winter preparedness

Posted on: 24/12/2015

Moaning about the weather is something that I am well known for and often mocked about by my colleagues.

Like a true British person, whatever the weather, I will always find reason to blame it for one reason or another – especially where our work load is concerned.

For instance, rain is bad, right?  Not at all, rain actually significantly reduces the amount of leaks that get reported. So ok, rain is good? Well not exactly, because despite getting less unpredictable leakage work to deal with, it adversely affects our productivity and, of course makes life a lot harder for our guys out in the field to work in.

However, there is one thing for certain. Cold weather really does give us a challenge that we have to prepare for every year. A prolonged period of cold, wintery weather or even a short cold snap can hugely affect the amount of incoming emergency work, as well as put pressure on day to day maintenance of our network.

So, despite me always finding fault whatever the weather, it is the winter period that always provides the stiffest test for us operationally. The person in my team tasked with planning for this is Clive Book – our Head of Emergency and Metering Services, and active planning for winter pretty much starts the preceding Spring each year, 

This may seem a little premature, but behind the scenes a significant amount of planning goes into preparing the business for whatever winter can throw at us. The plan covers everything from making sure we have enough fan heaters in our stores and at our operational bases, the location of 4 x 4 Vehicles, accommodation for critical staff and a detailed workload profile for the coming winter.

All of the workload predictions for our Emergency response processes are updated with the information from the previous winter and these predictions are used to make sure the work patterns of our engineers match the workload for the coming winter.

These workload predictions are based on the average number of reported gas escapes we can expect on any given day, but as all our operational colleagues know, in a bad winter the peak day can be 3 times greater than the average. So a key part of our winter plan is the detail of how we respond to a peak day, with actions ranging from cancelling non urgent work and calling in people on overtime up to using other, first responder trained colleagues to make gas leaks safe and taking priority actions before one of our engineers arrives.

This year, to support our engineers we’ve trained an additional staff to respond to gas leaks. In extreme circumstances we can call on them to support our engineers and make sure that we keep our customers safe – our key priority.

Although we all hope we never have to use it to its full extent there is complete understanding that if we ever do, then the whole business is there to offer its support to operational colleagues on the winter front line.

Wishing you all a wonderful, mild and damp (but not too wet) Christmas!



Andrew Hopkins

Wales & West Utilities Director of Asset Management, Health, Safety & Environment