South East urged to get ready for winter weather now
Winter preparations stepped up by Openreach after 750 telephone poles damaged in storms last year
Openreach, the UK’s largest phone and broadband network, is busy preparing for extreme winter weather and has some useful advice for residents and business owners across the South East.
The Company, which builds and maintains the UK’s largest phone and broadband network, warns there could be disruption if we see a repeat of the 2021/22 storm season, which saw six named storms hit the UK, including three in one week during February.
Since then, Openreach has been reviewing its approach to extreme weather, making sure the 4,800 engineers across the region have the best possible specialist winter kit, looking at whether the network can be re-routed in areas that have proved to be particularly vulnerable to storms in recent years and reviewing how information on any disruption is shared with communities.
The company has also pulled together some useful tips for phone and broadband users:
· Tell your provider if you’re vulnerable: Let your phone or broadband provider - the company you pay your bill to - know if you or a family member is vulnerable (Ofcom publishes useful guidance on this], so you’ll be prioritised, wherever possible, during any repair work;
· Prepare for an outage: Make sure your mobile phone and any spare battery packs are fully charged if you know extreme weather is approaching. It could provide you with vital access to help, online services and contact with friends and family;
· Report damage: Outages can happen because trees or branches hit our cables and equipment. You can help us fix things faster by reporting this kind of issue directly to us online or by calling 0800 023 2023. Use a What3Words location to help us pinpoint the damage;
· Check your power: We have backup plans in the event of local power cuts to keep our network running, but you might find it hard to connect if your own power is disrupted;
· Consider upgrading to Full Fibre: Our Ultrafast full fibre broadband network now reaches more than one million homes and businesses across the South East. As well as being faster, more reliable and future-proof, it’s also less affected by things like flooding. Check now to find out if you can upgrade;
· More information: If phone and broadband services are disrupted, you can find out the latest information we have at openreach.com. Always report a fault to your service provider so we know there’s a problem.
As part of annual winter weather preparations, Openreach is busy stocking up on essential items so its engineers can stay safe and warm on the road, including thousands of snowshoes, snow socks for vehicle tyres, bags of salt and litres of screen wash.
The company also has a strong focus and investment in locations which have proved susceptible to storms and wild weather in recent winters. A fleet of 4x4 vehicles is strategically placed around the UK to reach isolated and extremely rural communities quickly.
Dave Kelly, service delivery director for Openreach in the South East: “It’s impossible to predict exactly what kind of winter is ahead of us, but we’re doing everything we can to prepare for it.
“The most important thing to us is keeping our engineers and the public safe. Our people are out in all conditions and in some of the most rural and remote areas, whether that’s fixing and maintaining the network, or building new, Full Fibre connections in places like Hastings in East Sussex, Horsham in West Sussex, Ashford in Kent, Reading in Berkshire, Guildford in Surrey and Fareham in Hampshire.
“Last year, Storms Dudley, Eunice and Franklin caused more than 7,000 reports of damage to phone and broadband services in just 24 hours, with more than 750 of our poles needing to be replaced as a result.
“It presented us with an opportunity to review and make changes to our approach and I’m confident we’re in a better place heading into this winter. We’re more co-ordinated across our business and have even closer working relationship with organisations like the power companies and the Met Office.
“I’d urge anyone who’s vulnerable to let their broadband company know as quickly as possible as this means they can be prioritised during repairs. It’s not always possible due to the way the network works, but we’ll do our best.”
More than 4,800 Openreach people live and work in the South East. This team supports a huge effort to maintain and build the UK’s largest phone and broadband network.
Openreach has already made Full Fibre broadband available to more than 950,000 premises across the region, with work already underway to reach dozens more. It’s all part of the company’s plans to reach 25 million UK homes and businesses by the end of 2026.