It’s October and in Aberdeenshire that means only one thing – it’s time to rollout our public communications campaign in readiness for winter.
Since moving to Aberdeenshire four years ago, I have seen how local authorities tackle a real winter. Last year, the snow started falling in mid November and it kept on snowing right through to the end of March, leaving snow piled high at the sides of roads. With temperatures not climbing above freezing for months on end, public agencies have to be prepared to keep the world moving, whatever the weather, week after week after week.
This is nothing unusual in the far North East of Scotland. We have 3,400 miles of roads to maintain and some of our roads are extremely high and remote. In the depths of winter, it’s important for our economy to keep the roads clear, whether that be keeping the schools open, helping people to enjoy the snow in our two ski resorts, or just helping people in their daily commute to work.
We have teams of people working day and night keeping roads clear, an invisible workforce often out in the dead of night, but without them the region would grind to a halt. Our care workers use whatever transport is available to make sure they reach our most vulnerable and isolated residents, with some last year using tractors to reach people, or staying overnight to make sure that the person received the care they needed. These are the ‘unsung heroes’ of the public sector.
But we also know that our communities are willing and able to help themselves. Now, more than ever, is the time for local councils to support communities in taking more responsibility for themselves; whether that is putting winter tyres on the car, checking on elderly or vulnerable neighbours or clearing the path outside your house, we need to ensure that communities no longer sit back and wait for the council to do it for them.
In Aberdeenshire, we are working with our partners to encourage the public to take responsibility for their own safety and to become more resilient. As communicators, we have to make sure that people have access to the information they need, be that school closures, travel and transport issues, or advice on how to stay warm and safe. Our Ready Aberdeenshire campaign has already begun, and we are widely promoting our simple checklist of things that individuals can do to make sure they are fully prepared for winter and that’s best done now, before the winter arrives (snow is forecast this week!).
Collectively, the public agencies will make sure they are ready to respond to the worst that winter can throw at us, but individually we all have a responsibility for our own safety. The role of the communicator is encouraging people to help themselves, whilst also demonstrating what the council is doing to make sure it is prepared.
We’re ready for winter. Are you?