More travel chaos? Army is put on snow alert for winter
Health secretary Andrew Lansley will unveil the country's first Cold Weather Plan on Tuesday and he is expected to announce that the Army will be put on standby to help keep roads, rail and airports open if we have another harsh winter.
As weather experts predict another harsh winter, there are fears that we could experience travel chaos on a scale similar to last year. There are also warnings that thousands more pensioners could die as fuel bills rise.
Department of Health officials said that is is "entirely possible" that the Army would be called in if we experience another winter as cold as last year.
If we experience massive snowfall again, the Army could help to keep transport links open, clear roads and ensure that hospitals are able to stay open.
Next month we will find out the death toll for last winter, which is expected to be high.
To help save lives and protect the vulnerable, the Government's winter covenant for the elderly puts a four-level alert system in place until March 2012.
Level 1 would see the roll out of general precautions such as flu vaccinations.
Level 2 would begin when there is a 60 per cent chance of severe winter weather within two or three days. At this stage teams would visit vulnerable pensioners to make sure their homes are heated and they have the benefits they are entitled to.
Level 3 would kick in in the event of heavy snow. In this case health and social care teams would make visits or daily phone calls to at-risk residents.
Level 4 would come if conditions were so bad that ordinary ambulance services could not get the sick to hospital. This is the stage at which the Army could be called in.
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