The climate emergency has already started to make extreme weather in the UK more frequent and intense. As a result, improving people's and communities' ability to prepare for extreme weather events is a critical component of climate adaptation. IEMA's Digital Journalist Tom Pashby reports.

The Met Office, the UK’s national weather service, runs a campaign called WeatherReady which is designed ‘to help individuals, families and communities prepare for and cope with severe weather’.

WeatherReady was mentioned in the UK’s National Risk Register 2023 update, where it was listed as an example of what the UK Government is doing to provide ‘tailored guidance and communications to help people understand the risks that are most likely to affect them, and the specific actions they can take to protect themselves’.

A spokesperson for the Met Office said: “One of the main focuses is the actions people can take before severe weather is in the forecast. We work with expert partners to create and share seasonal advice. We do this with digital channels, working with PR partners and some low-cost paid campaigns.

“WeatherReady is for everyone, but we do look to reach people who may be particularly vulnerable to certain weather impacts (e.g. the more elderly who may be impacted by extremely cold or hot weather).”

The campaign was started in 2011 as a winter campaign but developed into an all-year-round campaign in 2018, reflecting the increasing need to help people prepare for extreme cold, wind, floods, droughts and heatwaves.

The spokesperson for the Met Office said: “WeatherReady is a continually evolving and improving campaign as we seek to work with new partners and reach new audiences. We create and test new content formats and channels all the time.”

As hinted at by the MetOffice, the campaign is not yet very widely known in the UK and may only be best known within communities most vulnerable to extreme weather events such as people who live and work in coastal, island and remote areas.

Kit England MIEMA, senior climate adaptation specialist at Paul Watkiss Associates, said: “WeatherReady is a great initiative and it’s fantastic to see it expanded, especially as polling suggests there’s significant potential to boost individual and community action.

“However, whilst there’s clearly more individuals can do, households and communities rely on the resilience of wider infrastructure and systems to support them, and investment is not keeping pace with accelerating impacts.

Polling by Ipsos Mori prepared for the Third National Adaptation Programme show citizens see this responsibility as squarely with the Government, yet the CCC highlights we’re consistently underperforming, and NAP3 contained no new funding for adaptation other than for research and evidence.

“Hopefully by raising awareness, the WeatherReady campaign can also kick-start a wider discussion on who pays for adaptation, and how – it’s long overdue”.

Many IEMA members, including individuals and corporate partners, are involved in preparing communities for climate-related extreme weather events.

National Grid, an IEMA corporate partner, provides critical services and works across a broad range of preparations for and responses to extreme weather.

A spokesperson for National Grid said: “When storms are forecast, we mobilise extra operational and contact centre staff to deal with power cuts, manage the network and help customers.

“Planned maintenance work is cancelled so we can prioritise our response to the storm.

“Our website is updated with messages warning of potential weather disruption to power supplies and what customers can do to prepare. We also alert customers via our Facebook and Twitter accounts.”

During Storm Agnes, the Met Office shared information on X (formerly known as Twitter) on how people can stay safe during strong winds as part of its WeatherReady campaign, including how to protect property, and staying safe on roads and near the coast.

The government recently tested and launched its new Emergency Alerts system which, before or during a life-threatening event, people will receive an audible and visual alert on their smartphones to warm them.

A key purpose of the system was to warn people of extreme weather, but it is understood that this has not yet been used for an environmental event. It remains to be seen what the thresholds are for an emergency alert to be issued in relation to an emergency event.


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