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What is the cold weather protocol? Emergency measures activated amid freezing temperatures

The gritters will be out on the roads as cold weather is forecast (Jane Barlow / PA)
The gritters will be out on the roads as cold weather is forecast (Jane Barlow / PA)

Cold weather protocols have been activated in various parts of the country to help rough sleepers as the UK faces another cold front.

Rough sleepers in Gloucestershire, Northants, Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole are among those who will receive extra support to deal with the cold.

The Severe Weather Emergency Protocols (SWEP) are triggered when there's a prolonged period of sub-zero temperatures.

Local authorities will contact rough sleepers and work to ensure they have a warm place to sleep.

The SWEP responds to frosty conditions that have swept across the country, prompting weather warnings and travel disruptions.


Many parts of the UK will see several inches of snow, with temperatures around 6°C lower than usual for January.

The SWEP will likely remain in place for several days, with the UK's arctic blast expected to continue through to the weekend.

What is the cold weather protocol?

Cold weather protocol or severe emergency weather protocol is an emergency response to prevent the deaths of people who sleep rough during winter.

SWEP is activated by local authorities across the country when temperatures are forecast to be lower than zero degrees for three nights, or in London for one night, according to

During periods of extreme cold, housing authorities must provide facilities for rough sleepers to prevent people dying from exposure.

The Government must provide bed-and-breakfast-type accommodation for rough sleepers or other temporary accommodation.

Rough sleepers can stay there either until the severe weather ends or they have found other suitable accommodation, whichever is the sooner.

Rough sleepers are:

  • People sleeping in the open air.

  • People about to bed down (sitting on/in or standing next to their bedding) in the open air.

  • People actually bedded down (such as on the streets, in tents, doorways, parks, bus shelters or encampments).

  • People in buildings or other places not designed for habitation (such as sheds, cars, stairwells, barns, car parks, derelict boats and so on).

Mr Khan had previously shared his support for keeping London's rough sleepers safe during cold weather.He said: “Too many people are facing a freezing winter on the streets of the capital without the safe, secure accommodation they need. Across the capital, we are doing everything we can to prevent anyone sleeping rough in these freezing conditions.

“London’s councils and charities will be working even harder this week to support some of the most vulnerable people in our city. On behalf of all Londoners, I thank them for their tireless efforts.”